Thursday, 5 October 2017

FUELLING THE FUTURE: Inaugural conference whets appetites for energy sector transformation via natural gas

THE WAY FORWARD: “Many opportunities await to strategically position [Jamaica] as the regional hub for natural gas,” Minister Wheatley noted as he addressed Wednesday's opening ceremony.

AS the Government increasingly looks to natural gas as an alternative that can significantly boost the local energy sector, the first-ever Jamaica Natural Gas Conference opened with much aplomb at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston on Wednesday morning. Observing the theme “New Horizons: Prospects and Challenges for a Natural Gas Sector in Jamaica,” the inaugural conference will take place over three days, bringing together industry stakeholders, local and international experts and government officials to discuss strategies for implementation and plot the way forward. 

“The emergence of a natural gas sector in Jamaica is a development that is long overdue for many reasons,” noted Joseph Matalon, Chairman of the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) which, along with the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), organized the conference. “We must find a way to satisfy our energy needs through methods that don’t threaten our natural resources. One of the goals to be achieved is the introduction of new sources of energy like natural gas, a potential game-changer for Jamaica’s energy sector and the wider economy.”

Also addressing the conference’s opening ceremony, PCJ Chairman Russell Hadeed believes it’s high time for Government to press the accelerator on the implementation process. “The effort to bring natural gas to Jamaica dates back two decades. This conference represents an advancement of the country’s strategy for greater energy security,” Hadeed said. “The focus should be on environmentally friendly energy solutions and the spin-offs that the industry will offer, and how public and private entities can work together to create jobs and generate economic activity. This conference is an excellent starting point.”

For his part, Dr. Andrew Wheatley, who has portfolio responsibility for the energy sector, informed the gathering that plans are well advanced for the JPS Bogue Plant in Montego Bay (and another plant located in Old Harbour Bay, St. Catherine) to take advantage of natural gas opportunities, thanks in large part to international partners and LNG specialists New Fortress Energy. In fact, a scheduled field-trip tour of the Bogue sites will bring the curtains down on the conference on Friday. 

“I can now confidently state that Jamaica is now open for business and investment in the natural gas space to create a modernized energy sector,” Dr. Wheatley said. “There is heightened interest in this emerging sector and many opportunities await to strategically position [Jamaica] as the regional hub for natural gas.” 

Ahead of Friday’s trip to Montego Bay, the conference continues on Thursday’s Day Two with a number of sessions centred on business opportunities and the long-term benefits of natural gas, including the reduction of Jamaica’s carbon footprint.

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