26 January 2012 20:47 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS)--Methanol and ammonia producers in Trinidad should expect the natural gas curtailment there to last at least through the first quarter, with normal deliveries resuming in the second, the top executive at Methanex said on Thursday.
Trinidad supplies 70% of US methanol imports and 60% of American ammonia imports. However, production on the island has been reduced for more than a year because of gas curtailments to producers that began in late 2010.
Natural gas supplies to producers at the Point Lisas complex, where most of the plants are located, have been cut by 15–30% each month for most of the past year.
But the cutback does not stem from a natural-gas shortage, said Bruce Aitken, CEO of Canada-based methanol producer Methanex. He made his comments in an earnings conference call.
Instead, the government entity that sells natural gas to downstream customers had not contracted enough gas from the upstream producers, he said.
“This has been a very frustrating issue, because there’s no shortage of natural gas in Trinidad,” Aitken said. “This is all about a contractual position.”
“It is a contractual issue, not an issue over physical molecules,” Aitken said. “Downstream users are putting more and more pressure on the government, so I think someone is going to realise that it makes sense to solve this problem, and there is a simple solution.”
Aitken said he could not go into details.
The government-owned gas utility, National Gas Co (NGC) of Trinidad and Tobago, did not return a call immediately on Thursday seeking comment on Aitken’s explanation.
The Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs Office this week said the curtailment stemmed from “maintenance works being undertaken by major upstream suppliers.”
The statement did not name the upstream supplier. BP’s 13 offshore platforms supply about 65% of the gas to the NGC.
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