The Weekly Brief: Greater Caribbean


March 1, 2020 edition–Aruba’s sun; Suriname’s oil production; and the Dominican Republic’s electricity pact.


Last Week in a Minute or Less


Central America. Central America is turning to natural gas; El Salvador increased its public debt; and power shortages caused violence in Guatemala.


Greater Antilles / Northern Islands. Venezuelan oil travels to Cuba; the Dominican Republic okayed the electricity pact; and JPS bet US$16m on Nest’s power plant.


Lesser Antilles / Southern Islands. Aruba’s resort is sun-powered; and Bermuda will power a sewage pumping station with the sun.


South America’s Caribbean Coast. Suriname will boost oil production; Colombia is all up on solar energy; and India is considering Iran and Venezuela as oil suppliers.


Déjà vu all over again. Last week’s readers were particularly interested in Maruel & Prom’s drilling plans (BN Americas – English); Guatemala’s power auction (Central America Data – Spanish); and Guyana’s 2021 oil output (Argus Media – English).



Government & NGO


The CDB expects an economic growth of 3.8% in 2021. The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) is forecasting an average gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 3.8% in 2021. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, countries with significant tourism industries were hit hard by a more than 70% drop in overnight visitors in 2020 (JIS – English).


El Salvador increased its public debt. Moody’s warned that the public debt of the Central American nation will continue increasing until 2022 (El Mundo – Spanish). El Salvador would have to secure financing of US$800m to honor two bonds due in January 2023.


Jamaica’s economy dropped 9.4%. The Jamaican economy contracted by 9.4% in the last quarter of 2020 (Jamaica Gleaner – English). The service sector shrank by 11.5% due to the effect of COVID-19 on the tourism and travel markets.


Haiti’s political crisis continues. Protests against President Jovenel Moise continue after three weeks (CNN – English). Moise has dismissed protesters as “a minority of people” seeking to destabilize the state and seize power, and has refused to contemplate calls for a transitional government.



Oil & Gas Upstream


Colombia’s oil production may hang in the balance. After a harsh 2020, the Colombian oil industry plans to recover 2019’s oil production levels in 2021, at 886,000 barrels per day (The Global Americans – English). Colombia is sitting on 2 billion barrels of oil reserves and the government is looking to “unconventional deposits.”


Ecopetrol will go all-in the Permian Basin. The state-owned company plans to invest US$600m in the Permian Basin. Ecopetrol and Oxy plan to drill a total of 90 wells in the Permian this year, and Ecopetrol also has high hopes for its Gato do Mato offshore project in Brazil (Platts – English).


Suriname will boost oil production… Drilling activity in offshore Suriname is increasing as Exxon obtained excellent results in the Stabroek Block (Oil Price – English). Tullow Oil recently spudded the Goliathberg Voltzberg North-1 exploration well in block 47.


…and Apache will focus on it too. Apache’s US$200m exploration CapEx for 2021 will mainly go to Suriname (BN Americas – English). Christmann highlighted plans to spud the Bonboni prospect at offshore block 58. A final investment decision is expected by year-end and first oil by 2025.



Liquid Fuels Mid-Downstream


Ecopetrol is giving Barrancabermeja a makeover. The state-owned company is investing US$780m in the next two years in projects aimed at ensuring operational and environmental sustainability (OGJ – English). The investment will focus on conserving water, reducing emissions, and improving quality of fuel production.


India is considering Iran and Venezuela as oil suppliers. India is working to organize oil-consuming countries against the OPEC+ as producers keep crude prices high, restricting supply. India is considering importing cheaper fuel from Iran and Venezuela (Hindustan Times – English).


Venezuelan oil travels to Cuba. As fuel shortages continue in Venezuela, two Cuban ships left the El Palito refinery in Carabobo toward Cuba, loaded with Venezuelan crude and fuel oil (Diario Las Americas – Spanish). Approximately a third of Venezuela’s exports in February went to Cuba.


Guyana will cut its fuel tax. Guyana’s government will reduce the excise tax on gasoline and diesel to ease the domestic impact of the recent price increases (Inews Guyana – English). In late October 2020, a barrel of oil cost US$35, today it is over US$60.


DR retailers are concerned with high oil prices. The members of the Fuel and Derivatives Companies Society (SEC) showed concern about international oil price increases and the impact on the costs of fuels distributed in the Dominican Republic (Dominican Today – English).



Natural Gas Mid-Downstream & LNG


Central America is turning to natural gas. In the near future, three natural gas projects in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Panamá will go on the grid (E&N – Spanish), as power demand in the region will be increasingly provided by renewables in 2021.


JPS bet US$16m on Nest’s power plant. JPS is paying US$16m for the 10MW power plant that will be powered up by natural gas (Jamaica Gleaner – English). The project will be completed by June 2021. The power plant is one component of The Nest agribusiness complex at Hill Run.


Colombia’s natural gas production regulation is explained. Lawmakers explained the ownership and organizational structure for production of natural gas and the statutory and regulatory framework (Lexology – English). Lawmakers clarified that the Permanent Process for the Assignment of Areas (PPAA) requires that bidders be enabled economically, financially, technically, operationally, environmentally, and legally.



Electric Power & Renewables


Colombia is all up on solar energy… Xantia-Xamuels plans three 9.9MW solar projects in Colombia (Renewables Now – English). Isagen will acquire two 19.9MW small hydropower plants (Renewables Now – English). Colombia expects to reach 1,000MW of renewable energy capacity by 2021 year-end (Renewables Now – English).


…and Panamá’s sun is bringing power to remote areas. The National Energy Ministry said that 672 new projects between 2021 and 2024 will bring power to 97,000 Panamanians (PV Magazine – Spanish). Avanzalia Solar said Penonomé’s solar plant is in operation (PV Magazine – Spanish).


Aruba’s resort is sun powered. The Manchebo Beach Resort and Spa in Aruba launched a new solar panel project, installing 100kW of solar panels, which is enough to generate 20% of its electricity from solar energy (Carib Journal – English). The resort will be generating 182,500 kilowatt hours of power annually.


BPL got the okay for its solar energy plan. Regulators approved the Bahamas Power & Light’s first renewable energy plan that aims to install 119MW of solar generation by 2023 (Tribune 242 – English). The project would cover 10% of Family Island demand by 2023.


Nicaragua and the BCIE will bet on its energy program. The government of Nicaragua will receive a loan of US$143m from the Central American Bank of Economic Integration (BCIE) (La Prensa – Spanish). The loan will finance a national power program benefiting 114,000 people.


Power shortages caused violence in Guatemala. A group of people destroyed the office of Energuate and caused damage to the Malacatán San Marcos building, claiming a lack of power and water services for 20 days (El Periódico – Spanish). Neighbors from 70 communities protested, and the Catarina and San Pablo municipalities have suffered similar power outages.


Colombia’s power auctions will boost renewables. According to Fitch Ratings, the non-conventional renewable energy auctions could help diversify the country’s electricity generation matrix and lower system costs (Fitch Ratings – English). Despite that, Fitch believes the slow development of transmission networks will remain an obstacle.


The Dominican Republic okayed the electricity pact. The Dominican Republic government signed the electricity pact (Dominican Today – English). The document will allow gradual changes in tariffs and subsidies while recognizing limitations in the distribution section (Diario Libre – Spanish).



Old School Social Goes Viral


(Editor’s note: For the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak, this section will refocus on announcements of event delays or cancellations, events that are moved online, and scheduled webinars and public conference calls. Stay safe!)



The 5th Caribbean Infrastructure Forum will be held March 24-25.


The Hydrogen Congress for Latin America & the Caribbean – H2LAC is rescheduled for April 14-15.


The Island Energy Transformation Training Series will be held April 29.



Lateral Thinking


Bermuda will power a sewage pumping station with sun. Solar panels were installed at a pumping station in Hamilton, expecting to save the city US$30,000 per year in power costs (Royal Gazette – English). The station pumps more than 500,000 gallons of sewage a day.



Quote of the Week


“Misery won’t touch you gentle. It always leaves its thumbprints on you; sometimes it leaves them for others to see, sometimes for nobody but you to know of.”



– Edwidge Danticat (1969), Haitian-American novelist and short story writer.




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