Natural gas power plant still under consideration – Min Sharma
– says multi-stakeholder approach needed to plan project
By Jarryl Bryan
The construction of a natural gas plant that could convert the gas that oil giant ExxonMobil finds in its wells into energy for local consumption is still under consideration. This is according to Junior Minister of Public Infrastructure, Jaipaul Sharma.
In a recent interview with this publication, Sharma was asked for an update on the project, which Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson had noted last year would provide hundreds of jobs.
Sharma pointed to some of the positives such a project would bring, including cleaner energy compared to the fossil fuel currently dominating Guyana’s energy sector.
But while it is under consideration, Sharma noted that there are several considerations that have to be given for such a project. One such consideration is the fact that it is a multi-agency effort and arms of the Government like the Department of Energy have very important roles to play.
“The industrial park was our proposal, with 200 megawatts being produced, an industrial park might have encouraged agro-processors and companies to set up,” Sharma explained. “A dual-purpose gasifier would produce very cheap electricity.”
“Of course, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure cannot operate in isolation. That information and the plan will have to be forwarded to be discussed by stakeholders, the most important one being the Department of Energy,” he noted.
And since natural gas is usually injected back into wells to aid in oil production by restoring depleted pressure in the reservoir, the Minister noted that this must also be considered before such a project is implemented.
According to Sharma, Exxon’s priority will be to recover oil in commercial quantities as projected. It is based on the profit oil that Guyana will get its cut of oil revenue. Therefore, he noted that the technical staff will have to determine how much gas Exxon could provide to Guyana.
“We would not do anything that impacts negatively on the recovery of barrels of oil. It’s under active consideration. When its first oil, we’ll know the amount of gas that’s there and how we can utilise it,” Sharma said.
Part of a US$20 million loan Guyana had signed with the World Bank is expected to go towards funding a study to examine the merits of bringing natural gas onshore for the local energy market. It is understood that the Liza field is approximately 120 miles offshore Guyana.
Several have already championed its merits, including US-based Energy Consultant Edwin Callender. At an energy forum in June of this year, Callender had noted that in a country like Guyana where power outages are a significant problem, natural gas production can help to modernise the country.
“People who live in Guyana know that electricity is a problem and it is a problem because of an old system but it is also a problem because of the fuel source. Bunker C – that is very old and antiquated, the power plants are not efficient in any way, shape or form. And so you have an opportunity now to bring natural gas onshore and have gas fire power generation and that will open a whole lot of opportunities for the country,” the energy consultant had said.
Natural gas, while not a renewable source of energy, is composed mostly of methane and small amounts of hydrocarbon. Its emissions contain a significantly lower level of carbon dioxide, compared to oil.
In fact, natural gas, when used for power generation, also emits fewer sulphur and nitrogen oxides, making it the cleanest of all fossil fuels. As such, Government has previously said it can use natural gas to transition to a “Green State.”
Already, private companies like Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) have begun the transition. It was only last week that the company commissioned Guyana’s first Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) gasification terminal.