Power restored to Trinidad after gas plant issues cause blackout

29 March 2013 19:35  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--An early Friday morning glitch with an emergency shutdown system at a natural gas plant left Trinidad and Tobago in a nationwide electrical blackout, but officials later in the day said that power has been gradually restored.

According to officials with the Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs (MEEA), the problem started when the system at the Phoenix Park Gas Processors Limited (PPGPL) facility in the Point Lisas Industrial Estate was tripped, which consequently impacted the delivery of natural gas in the country, including to the Powergen Point Lisas gas-fuelled power station.

“PPGPL was unable to supply quality gas to the power-generating entities in the country. There was a situation which developed at the Cove Industrial Estate in Tobago, leaving the sister isle without power as well. However, the situation in Tobago was rectified quickly and power was restored within a couple of hours,” said MEEA.

“With respect to Trinidad, the situation was complicated further by the fact that existing redundancies at the National Gas Company failed to kick-in," the MEEA said. "Plant and equipment, which was shut down during the outage, took several hours to power back up and resume operations at full capacity.”

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar mobilized military units, law enforcement and air patrols to maintain order and safety once the blackouts struck, but as of Friday afternoon there were no major incidents. The prime minister has ordered comprehensive reports from both the MEEA and the Ministry of Public Utilities to determine the cause of the blackout and establish contingencies should there be a future recurrence.

Home to approximately 1.3m people, Trinidad and Tobago is a major producer of natural gas and home to foreign fertilizer production, specifically ammonia bound for the US, as 65% of imports of the vital crop nutrient comes from Trinidad.

Major operators in the region include PotashCorp, which has four ammonia plants located at Point Lisas, and Yara, who operates three plants in the same area. It is estimated that the 11 ammonia plants within the islands have a total capacity of approximately 5.7m tonnes/year.

By: Mark Milam
+1 713 525 2653

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