There is a market for at least 3.5 million tonnes a year (mmty) of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the Caribbean, one of the last regions in the world to be thinking of switching out of heavy fuel oil/diesel and into natural gas for power generation. 

This may not seem like such a big deal for anyone living in Trinidad and Tobago, which (at least in Trinidad's case) has been employing gas for this purpose since 1953.

But it would be quite novel for any Caribbean country to go this route, since almost all of them, with the exception of Barbados, which occasionally switches to gas for electricity whenever the Barbados National Oil Co. (BNOC) has excess gas available. 

The rest will have to import gas, either by pipeline or through LNG delivered by specialised ships or in containers and that's the trade the Caribbean LNG Co., headed by UK businessman, Roland Fisher, CEO of Luxembourg-registered Gasfin Development, is eyeing. 

He is very excited about the prospects in the market, which stretches from The Bahamas in the north-east all the way down to Guyana in the southern Caribbean, taking in Central America states like Costa Rica and Guatemala on the way, which could mean that his 3.5 mmty estimate is a conservative one. 

With the 10-year-old project to provide gas by pipeline through Tobago from Trinidad to Barbados for power generation being promoted by the Eastern Caribbean Gas Pipeline Co. (ECGPC) seemingly at a permanent standstill, Fisher's is the only game in town involving regional gas trading. 

But he warned, in an exclusive interview with Energy Now, that wouldbe United States exporters of LNG were strong rivals of Caribbean LNG for the regional market. 

With the US now awash with gas extracted from shale formations, there is a strong push for exporting some of that in the form of LNG and three projects are currently in the construction stage at Sabine pass, Cameron and Freeport, amounting to over 30 million tonnes, with another three having received export approval for supplying Free Trade Area (FTA) countries. Taking other interested parties into account, the Gasfin Development CEO estimates around 300 mmtpy of LNG capacity could be created in the US over the years ahead, plus another 150 mmtpy in Canada. 

Of course, not all of that is destined for the Caribbean but some of the smaller producers, such as Cove Point, with 5 million tonnes a year planned for first export in 2019, may well be interested in the bigger Caribbean markets closer to the US. 

That means the sooner Caribbean LNG can establish itself as a force in the market, the better. 

Caribbean LNG, to be located at La Brea, only wants a modest slice of the market, starting out at 500,000 tpy and expanding to 1,000,000 tonnes as demand grows. 

Fisher has already been negotiating with Electricite de France (EdF), the power provider in the French departements of Martinique and Guadeloupe, which, if all goes well, are likely to be his first customers, rather than any English-speaking state.

He points out that “there is a bill going through the French parliament at the moment to determine their 5-year energy plan and come January, 2016, we will discover whether gas is back as a high priority for Martinique and Guadeloupe, as it was a few years ago.” 

On the Trinidad and Tobago side, meanwhile, Caribbean LNG has initialled a project development agreement (PDA) with the National Energy Corporation (NEC), or National Energy, as it calls itself these days and the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries. 

During the last quarter of this year, Fisher expects a CEC from the Environment Management Authority (EMA), with a final investment decision (FID) and the raising of the money (probably from Japanese lenders) in the first half of 2016.

First LNG for the Caribbean market? 

“Last quarter, 2018, first quarter 2019,” Fisher says confidently.