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Caribbean Islands Table of Contents

Caribbean Islands

Natural Gas

In the late 1980s, Trinidad and Tobago had proven reserves totaling approximately 481 billion cubic meters of natural gas, as well as a further 566 billion cubic meters that were likely to be recovered. Trinidad and Tobago contained about 0.3 percent of world gas reserves and contributed about 0.2 percent of world gas production. A large percentage of Trinidad and Tobago's gas was not associated with oil production and was located in separate fields off both the southeastern and the northern coasts. Although gas deposits were discovered in the 1940s, significant production did not get underway until the 1950s, when natural gas was needed to supply the small Federations Chemical (Fedchem) fertilizer plant. From 1973 to 1986, proven reserves of natural gas more than doubled during oil explorations off the country's southeastern shores. These discoveries encouraged the natural gas-based development strategy that evolved in the 1970s. The production of natural gas nearly doubled in the 1970s and expanded rapidly in the 1980s to meet the growing demand of the petrochemical industries that were coming on-stream. Gas production reached a record 7.6 billion cubic meters in 1985. The efficiency of production also increased, reaching a utilization rate of 78 percent by 1985. Amoco possessed approximately 72 percent of natural gas reserves and produced over 80 percent of the gas in 1985. Whereas oil fueled the country's economy throughout the twentieth century, the nation was expecting the same from natural gas and related industries into the twentyfirst century.

By the 1980s, natural gas was becoming increasingly integrated into the national economy. Natural gas feedstock was the most important input to the anhydrous ammonia, urea, and methanol plants that commenced operations at the Point Lisas industrial park in the early to mid-1980s (see Role of Government, this ch.). Natural gas also fueled over 70 percent of the country's generators of electricity, powered the new mill of the Iron and Steel Company of Trinidad and Tobago (Iscott), and was piped into Port-of-Spain residences. New gas pipelines along Trinidad's southern and western coasts were a decisive factor in the country's greater utilization of its gas resources during the 1980s. The steady supply of natural gas to the Point Lisas industrial park became essential to efficient operations, as demonstrated by the production problems that resulted from supply shortages in 1982. The National Gas Company (NGC) was the prime purchaser and distributor of natural gas. The NGC allocated over 60 percent of all gas to fertilizer production during the mid-1980s. The methanol plant, the steel mill, and oil companies in general consumed most of the balance of gas production. The NGC sold the gas at a wide range of prices, which included generous subsidies to the infant petrochemical industries.

Data as of November 1987