Sustainable Energy from Ideas to Projects: Part 1

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By Dr. Lorraine Sobers – OilNOW

The Energy Chamber of Trinidad and Tobago hosted the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Conference (CSEC) 2023 on June 5-7 at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain, Trinidad. The energy transition facing the sector, net-zero targets and looming low-carbon legislation put immense pressure on energy companies to be not only profitable and safe, but also commit to a pathway to zero carbon in compliance with Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) standards. Meanwhile, Guyana is moving full pace ahead to produce 1 million barrels of oil per day by 2027.

At this conference, upstream (oil and gas producers), downstream (oil and gas processing) and support companies provided updates on projects intended to make their operations less carbon-intensive. The CSEC attracted Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister of the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries (MEEI) as feature speaker and CEOs of parastatal institutions, senior executives of regional energy companies, and energy and environment focused institutions to present updates and perspectives. Each presenter acknowledged the need for an energy transition but there was a range of timeline, technology and carbon emission reduction strategies. Trinidad and Tobago is a mature oil and gas producing province, but there are many opportunities and challenges that are applicable to Guyana as an emerging producer in the region.

Ideas With No Apologies

The feature address by Minister of the MEEI, the Hon. Stuart Young can be described as bold and unapologetic. Minister Young spoke plainly about prioritising the immediate need for energy security over demands from international organisations and developed countries for low carbon development stating: 

“… Energy Security and what it means for us in the region is something that has become much more important to me. What we in Trinidad and Tobago are going to do, with no apologies for it whatsoever, is we will continue using and utilising our God-given resources of oil and gas because that is what keeps our economy going”. 

According to GlobalData, 47 countries are currently pursuing new oil and gas developments despite the findings of the International Energy Agency (IEA) Net Zero by 2050 report which proposes “a huge decline in fossil fuels”. The IEA pathway to net zero eliminates development of new oil and gas fields beyond 2021 commitments, despite demand that continues to grow.

Guyana’s and Suriname’s approach to low carbon development are in step with the proposed IEA pathway in their renewable energy projects and forest conservation policies. But their ongoing exploration and development plans diverge from the IEA pathway giving way to national development priorities such as using natural gas for power generation — this is the type of energy security that Minister Young advocated for in his speech and President of the Republic of Guyana, Dr. Irfaan Ali is pursuing. Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo has also made comments about Guyana’s sovereign right to develop its resources and called out developed countries for “starting up some coal-fired power plants which are even more polluting than using gas for energy”.

Sustainable Energy Projects

Guyana has made plans to bring gas to shore with the possibility of establishing downstream industries, has embarked on oil production, and solar parks are being built in several areas. 

In the first instance, decarbonising gas transport and distribution by pipeline may be considered from the outset. The National Gas Company (NGC) of Trinidad and Tobago is responsible for the sale and pipeline distribution of natural gas from offshore and across the twin islands. The company has embarked on a project to reduce fugitive methane emissions which will reduce their carbon footprint, comply with ESG standards and eliminate loss due to leakages. 

In the second instance, it is interesting to note how companies are adjusting to industrial and financial international standards. Heritage Petroleum Company Ltd, the Trinidad and Tobago’s national oil company, has finally begun to address venting and flaring of natural gas from onshore fields to accrue the same benefits as NGC and to comply with ESG standards as a condition for obtaining and refinancing loans.

Blackbelly sheep grazing among solar panels at Harrow Plantation, Barbados 
(Source: Renewstable, Barbados)

And finally, renewable solar energy projects were featured by several companies at the conference from the new Lara Solar Park Project in Point Lisas Trinidad, to the dual-purpose solar park (solar energy and agriculture on site) in Barbados to innovation in solar panels, solar batteries by Siemens and, a solar-powered hydroponic invention for kitchen gardens. A comprehensive approach has been taken on solar energy from micro to large scale applications to meet the diverse needs and limitations facing Caribbean countries. 

Decarbonising the Industry

Similar to the approach in Guyana, bpTT views natural gas as a part of the energy transition to cleaner energy. However, the company has been increasing its investments in non-oil and gas operations. For bpTT, this means investing in both the development of the Cassia Gas Field and the Project Lara Solar Park. For most oil and gas companies, the all or nothing stance of some environmentalists, powered by the urgency of the increase of average global temperature, will take time to execute. In Guyana and elsewhere, capital requirements, technology, legislation, incentives and market pressures will have to be more closely aligned for the energy transition to quicken the pace.

Decarbonising shipping, a critical part of international trade, now has the advanced technology needed to use alternative shipping fuels. Guyana’s wealth will grow through export of products that will be shipped to their destination. Decarbonising every link in the supply chain including logistics will make Guyanese exports more competitive. DNV, Proman and MTCC Caribbean showcased options for using methanol as a shipping fuel. S&P Global Commodities Insights considered the costs and carbon footprint of using biofuel, ammonia, methanol, nuclear, battery, hydrogen and a combination of diesel and battery to power shipping vessels. In the same way that motor vehicle fuel options have expanded, shipping fuels are moving toward lower carbon intensity with the expansion of the list of fuel oil alternatives. 

The next two options, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen fuel, will be introduced briefly here and explored in more detail next week from a technological perspective.

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) has the greatest potential on the basis of the volume of CO2 emissions that can be avoided. This technology requires the integration of upstream and downstream operators. I had the privilege of presenting on the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) and Carbon Capture and Utilisation panel at this years’ CSEC. Next week, I will summarise my presentation by outlining four elements of planning for CCS while maintaining national development priorities of an emerging producer like Guyana. And finally, the latest technological hot topic is using hydrogen to replace natural gas, fuel oil and jet fuel. In part-two of this column, I will explain how these technologies can be used to reduce or eliminate CO2 emissions and their applicability to Guyana.

About the Author

Dr. Lorraine Sobers is a Fulbright Scholar currently lecturing at The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine in the Petroleum Studies Unit. Dr Sobers has a BS in Chemical Engineering and MS in Petroleum Engineering from Texas Tech University. She obtained a PhD in Petroleum Engineering from Imperial College, London in 2012. Dr. Sobers has 20 years’ experience in the energy sector specialising in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR). She has a keen interest in using her technical expertise for the development of low carbon development policies. Dr. Sobers is the Project Coordinator for CO2 Emission Reduction Mobilisation (CERM) Project, a Fellow of the Caribbean Policy Consortium and a member of the Global Americans Global High Level Working Group on Climate Change in the Caribbean.

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