With its recent 20th anniversary celebrations now in the proverbial rear-view mirror, liquefied natural gas (LNG) production company, Atlantic, is peering into the journey ahead and exploring how it will continue to navigate a very competitive global business. 

The man currently at the helm — Dr. Philip Mshelbila, Atlantic’s CEO since last June — said he was humbled to be leading the company in its hallmark 20th year and helping it keep the momentum towards its next horizon.

‘It is deeply inspiring to become part of a great track record of accomplishments that has been built over two decades’, Mshelbila told EnergyNow. ‘Atlantic stands where it does today because of partnerships and collaborations at so many levels: from our employees our shareholders; to the government; to our home community, Point Fortin; our NGO partners; and our service providers. This 20th anniversary represents a perfect opportunity for all of us to reflect on the journey and what it has taught us, and to ensure that we take those lessons with us as we move ahead’. 

Early this year, on March 17, Atlantic exported its 4,000th LNG cargo. The cargo that was loaded onto the Gemmata, an LNG tanker making its 15th voyage to Atlantic’s Point Fortin facility. Mshelbila said that this historic milestone was yet another feather in Trinidad and Tobago’s LNG cap. 

‘Our 4,000th cargo testifies to just how competitive Trinidad and Tobago’s LNG is in markets all over the world’, he said. ‘It also reminds us that every LNG cargo contributes to the socio-economic development of Trinidad and Tobago’. 

In economic terms, LNG’s contribution throughout the entire local natural gas value chain takes many forms: whether through the direct employment of its hundreds of staff, the secondary employment of thousands of contractor staff from a vibrant service provider market, the contribution to the local economy of Point Fortin or through direct corporate taxation and other taxes paid. 

Challenges and opportunities ahead for Atlantic 

Mshelbila said Atlantic has not been daunted by some of the more recent circumstances facing the LNG business. Perhaps chief among these has been the recent notification from BPTT about challenges to its supply of gas to Train 1 post-2019. 

‘We are in the process of evaluating the impact of the supply challenges and are working with our shareholders to explore future options for Train 1. Atlantic is reviewing all technical options and these will be presented for consideration and decision by our shareholders in due course’, Mshelbila said. 

Over the course of its 20-year history, Atlantic has had to develop critical expertise in understanding the global markets and outlook for LNG as a key part of its operations. Close attention has been paid to price volatility in energy commodities, a feature of the markets in recent years. Some analysts have predicted that LNG — long characterised by differing prices depending on market location — will move towards global pricing, much as currently occurs in oil. 

‘It is a possibility over the long term, where increased LNG volume from a broadening range of competing suppliers, significant growth in the amount of LNG that is sold on a spot or flexible basis, and customer pressure to access low-cost energy would make it easier to commoditise LNG and create a liquid global market’, Mshelbila said. 

Atlantic is also keeping a close eye on new LNG production coming on stream in the U.S., Australia, Qatar and East Africa. 

‘All the data shows that there is still room for all players in the global LNG market’, Mshelbila said. ‘Even though global supply is increasing, growth in demand will remain strong. The world’s need for clean affordable energy sources is growing, so global demand for LNG is expected to surpass global supply in the long term. This is of course encouraging news for Trinidad and Tobago. It tells us that if gas production continues on its current trajectory of improvement over the medium and long term, then this country will continue to maintain its favourable position in global LNG’. 

Mshelbila emphasised that there were still strategic and operational opportunities while the upstream producers continue to stabilise and increase gas supply. 

‘Those of us in the midstream and downstream can continue to focus on increasing our efficiency, safety, reliability and competitiveness, as much as possible’, Mshelbila said. ‘Speaking for Atlantic in particular, our perspective is that in order to keep aligned with the ever-changing world of energy, we have to change ourselves and transform our business. Our long-term strategy to ensure this will focus on building the capability of our people, leveraging cutting-edge technology, reducing our environmental impact and becoming more energy-efficient. Those are areas which present opportunities for future growth and sustained competitiveness for Atlantic’.