Caribbean LNG Ltd., a company sponsored by Luxembourg’s Gasfin Development SA and Parallax, an integrated LNG investment company, seems to be inching slowly toward its goal of exporting 500,000 tonnes of liquefied gas from its Labidco estate-based plant by late 2017 or early 2018.

Its application for a certificate of environmental clearance (CEC) from the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) is now open for public comment through May 29 while it presses ahead with the project development agreement (PDA) recently given the green light by the Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs (MEEA).

The granting of a CEC is contingent upon an environmental impact assessment (EIA), which the company has already completed and which explores the “major environmental issues” relevant to the location and functioning of the plant.

It is highly unlikely that the EMA will refuse the CEC, and Gasfin/Parallax should be ready to proceed under a “project agreement” by the end of 2015.This will be the fulfilment of a dream of Roland Fisher, Gasfin Development’s chief executive officer (CEO), who has been pressing the powers-that-be to sanction the establishment of the country’s fifth (albeit smallest) LNG train in the past six years.

The establishment of Caribbean LNG will entrench Trinidad and Tobago’s position as the “LNG hub of the Caribbean,” a title which others are clamouring to claim. (See other story in this issue of Energy Now.)

Caribbean LNG’s half a million tonnes will take total liquefaction capacity in the country to about 15.7 million tonnes a year, counting the capacity of Atlantic’s four trains down at Point Fortin.

Atlantic is a major LNG installation which exports to the rest of the world on both a contract and spot basis. Caribbean LNG will be geared primarily toward the Caribbean region.

Gasfin Development’s Roland Fisher and Parallax’s Martin Houston clearly recognise a good business opportunity when they see one, since the company’s business plan is based on offering an alternative, and much less costly, fuel for generating electricity in a region noted for its crippling power prices, which subsequently increase the cost of goods and services, including tourism services, and which threatens to make Caricom countries uncompetitive.

By contrast, lower-cost gas-generated power in Trinidad and Tobago has materially contributed to this country’s competitiveness in manufacturing, heavy industry and services of all kinds, including energy services.

What’s more, by a stroke of good timing, Caribbean LNG’s prospective clients in the region will now have a special fund from which they can draw to finance the infrastructure necessary to receive LNG, such as regasification plants and storage facilities.

The Caribbean Energy Thematic Fund, announced by Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar at the U.S. government-sponsored Caribbean Energy Security Summit in Washington in January, is meant to help underwrite the cost of conversion to LNG by countries that are already among the most debt-ridden in the world.

Trinidad and Tobago, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the World Bank and others are expected to contribute to the Caribbean Energy Thematic Fund, which has a funding target of US$1 billion.

The first two likely customers for Caribbean LNG are the French Caribbean departments of Martinique and Guadeloupe, which will not be able to access the Thematic Fund but which probably do not need to do so, either: one of the world’s largest utilities, Electricite de France (EdF), will be buying the LNG and has enough cash flow and borrowing ability of its own to ready itself to accept LNG cargoes on a continuous basis.