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Atlantic LNG

An economic tower of strength for Trinidad & Tobago

Atlantic LNG is one of the main pillars of the Trinidad and Tobago economy. The company was established in 1995 and is among the world’s largest exporters of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The company produces LNG from a four-train liquefaction facility at Point Fortin. Each train is ultimately owned by a holding company, comprising its own group of member companies (see panel, right).

At Point Fortin, Atlantic LNG has two jetties of 700 meters in length. Each jetty can accommodate an LNG carrier of up to 145,000 cubic meters capacity. The facility is able to produce up to 100,000 cubic meters of LNG per day, which is shipped to contracted customers in South America, Asia and Spain. The plant also produces natural gas liquid (NGL) products such as ethane and propane.


Last year’s enlargement of the Panama Canal opened up new opportunities for the company. In July, a first shipment from Trinidad to Mexico’s west coast was made in a 138,000 cubic meter LNG carrier. Previously, only vessels of about 90,000 cubic meters were able to transit the waterway. These economies of scale are reducing transport costs for Atlantic. Chief executive Nigel Darlow told Caribbean Maritime: “The enlarged Panama Canal now allows access for conventional-sized LNG ships, providing good optionality for LNG trading in both the Atlantic and Pacific basins. Previously, only about eight per cent of the worldwide LNG fleet could transit the Panama Canal, but the expansion now accommodates in excess of 90 per cent of LNG carriers.”

Mr Darlow added: “This means that Atlantic basin LNG producers like Trinidad and Tobago can gain improved access to the Asian market. Of course, there are other variables such as prevailing market prices, destination arbitrage and the level of derived savings in fuel, tariffs and time which will factor into determining the routes chosen by LNG buyers and fleet owners.”

But some concern has been expressed about Point Fortin and whether it is now fully aligned with the canal. Mr Darlow was quick to dispel this misconception: “The larger vessels of up to 180,000 cubic meters that can now utilize the expanded Panama Canal can be accommodated at Atlantic’s terminal. In fact, Point Fortin has already accommodated LNG carriers with a capacity of up to 210,000 cubic metres [Q-Flex], and has done so on several occasions. However, the charted depth of our channel is 13.0 meters and vessels are not allowed to depart with a draft deeper than 11.5 meters. Therefore, we are not able to load these larger vessels to their maximum capacity to ensure the ship draft does not exceed our terminal’s stated specifications. At this time, Atlantic is not exploring any further capital dredging to bring in tankers with deeper draft.” 

There are worries, too, about the volatility of global LNG prices, which had steadily eased in recent years but picked up again in the second half of 2017. “Global LNG prices have declined significantly in the last few years, not just in Asia. Despite this fall, Atlantic remains competitive under the current market conditions and also has considerable flexibility in its cargo destinations.”

In the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Barbados and Jamaica are already importing LNG. As Mr Darlow said: “Natural gas is an economical and more environmentally friendly alternative to oil-based power generation. And this may be a consideration for any country looking to utilize natural gas for power generation. Natural gas is increasingly the fossil fuel of choice, being much cleaner than coal and oil. This growth in the relative importance of gas in the energy mix will continue to support global LNG demand.”
All good news, it seems, for Atlantic LNG.



Who owns Atlantic LNG?

Atlantic LNG is owned by the United States oil giant Amoco with 34 per cent; British firm BG with 26 per cent; Madrid-based Repsol with 20 per cent; as well as the US’s Cabot Corporation and the National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago, each with 10 per cent.


A catalyst for growth

Atlantic LNG is not just an energy producer but also a catalyst for the continued growth and development of the local economy. For example, Atlantic has about 700 full-time employees (99 per cent of whom are T&T nationals) and engages some 1,000 local contractors who provide about two-thirds of the goods and services procured by the company. Furthermore, Atlantic offers extensive local training programs and comprehensive social investment initiatives which engage some 20,000 individuals and over 300 schools on an annual basis. So Atlantic’s contribution to the local economy extends well beyond its revenue contribution from LNG production.