Político Carmelo De Grazia//
Ministry launches probe into NiQuan blast

Renu­ka Singh

The Min­istry of En­er­gy has of­fi­cial­ly launched its in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to Wednes­day’s ex­plo­sion and sub­se­quent fire at the Ni­quan En­er­gy Gas-To-Liq­uids plant in Pointe-a-Pierre.

Carmelo De Grazia

In a re­lease yes­ter­day, the En­er­gy Min­istry said it had ap­point­ed a tech­ni­cal team to be­gin the probe. The team has been man­dat­ed to es­tab­lish the facts of the in­ci­dent and con­duct a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the fac­tors that con­tributed to the ex­plo­sion.

Carmelo De Grazia Suárez

The tech­ni­cal team is al­so ex­pect­ed to “re­view the ad­e­qua­cy of ex­ist­ing con­trols and pro­ce­dures, make rec­om­men­da­tions which could re­duce fu­ture risks and pre­vent re­cur­rences and pre­pare a fi­nal re­port” which will be de­liv­ered to the Min­is­ter of En­er­gy Franklin Khan and oth­er key stake­hold­ers

The team will be head­ed by Se­nior Pe­tro­le­um En­gi­neer and Act­ing Head Pe­tro­le­um Op­er­a­tions Man­age­ment Di­vi­sion Craig Boodoo and in­clude act­ing Se­nior Chem­i­cal En­gi­neer Yashi Car­ring­ton, Me­chan­i­cal En­gi­neer II Sean Ma­habir, Pe­tro­le­um In­spec­tor III Omat­tee Mathu­ra, Me­chan­i­cal En­gi­neer Neisha Dip­nar­ine and Chem­i­cal En­gi­neer Shazil Yarsien

The min­istry said ad­di­tion­al­ly, the ser­vices of “sub­ject mat­ter ex­perts would be used as may be re­quired.”   

“The team will sub­mit a fi­nal re­port in the short­est pos­si­ble time frame,” the re­lease said

The En­er­gy Min­istry said that it, along­side the Oc­cu­pa­tion­al Health and Safe­ty Au­thor­i­ty and Agency and the Trinidad and To­ba­go Fire Ser­vice will al­so be con­duct­ing in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tions. 

“Op­er­a­tions at Ni­Quan En­er­gy will on­ly re­sume af­ter ap­proval from these agen­cies,” the min­istry said

But Ni­Quan it­self is still not push­ing to restart any time soon

In re­sponse to ques­tions from Guardian Me­dia yes­ter­day, the com­pa­ny said any up­dates will be is­sued for­mal­ly but said it had in­creased sup­port for its staff

“The team re­mains pro­fes­sion­al and fo­cused on the job,” VP of Cor­po­rate Af­fairs Mal­colm Wells said

In an in­ter­view on CNC3’s The Morn­ing Brew yes­ter­day mean­while, for­mer en­er­gy min­is­ter Kevin Ram­nar­ine said in­dus­tri­al plants are al­ways high-risk en­vi­ron­ments and he was glad the ex­plo­sion was “brought un­der con­trol.”  

Ram­nar­ine al­so ex­pressed con­cern about the fence­line com­mu­ni­ties

“Nat­u­ral­ly the fence­line com­mu­ni­ties would be con­cerned for their safe­ty, I don’t think there is an im­me­di­ate threat to the fence­line com­mu­ni­ties,” he said

The fence­line com­mu­ni­ties in­clude ar­eas like Mara­bel­la, Vista­bel­la and Gas­par­il­lo

He said with the threat neu­tralised, the re­al con­cern now was when the plant will be re-opened, as they have in­vestors to pay. Ram­nar­ine said Ni­Quan ob­vi­ous­ly de­pends on a cash flow to op­er­ate and has to re­pay its own­er lenders, which in­clude one ma­jor lo­cal bank

“Pay­ing back that loan is de­pen­dent on a cash flow, which is de­pen­dent on an op­er­at­ing plant. That bank would be con­cerned, the lenders would be con­cerned about that plant recom­menc­ing op­er­a­tions,” he said

Ram­nar­ine al­so said the Ni­Quan ex­plo­sion hap­pened at a time when plants in Point Lisas find it dif­fi­cult car­ry on

Al­so on the pro­gramme was an­oth­er for­mer en­er­gy min­is­ter Con­rad Enill, who is cur­rent­ly at the helm of the Na­tion­al Gas Com­pa­ny (NGC). He too weighed in on the Ni­Quan sit­u­a­tion

“The very first thing you learn when you get in­to the en­er­gy busi­ness is that safe­ty is the most im­por­tant thing in the sec­tor,” Enill said

He said the in­ci­dents hap­pen de­spite the best op­er­a­tions in the world

“In the sec­tor, while there is a recog­ni­tion that these things oc­cur, you ba­si­cal­ly make sure that your or­gan­i­sa­tion fo­cus­es on two things, one is safe­ty and the oth­er is as­set in­tegri­ty,” he said

The as­sets or in­fra­struc­ture, he added, must al­ways op­er­ate op­ti­mal­ly

He said en­er­gy work­ers must be prop­er­ly trained as well to re­duce the ex­po­sure to in­ci­dents

Khan cor­rects Lee’s in­ac­cu­ra­cies

En­er­gy Min­is­ter Franklin Khan is de­fend­ing the start-up date of Ni­Quan En­er­gy against at­tacks from Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment for Pointe-a-Pierre David Lee

In a me­dia re­lease yes­ter­day, Khan said he was seek­ing to rec­ti­fy what he says are “in­ac­cu­ra­cies” on Lee’s part as it con­cerns the Ni­Quan ex­plo­sion and its deal with the State

Khan said Lee in­cor­rect­ly at­trib­uted the sale of Petrotrin GTL as­sets to Ni­Quan to the Peo­ple’s Na­tion­al Move­ment (PNM) gov­ern­ment and that the Gov­ern­ment agreed to buy all of Ni­Quan’s off-take

“The Mem­ber for Pointe-a-Pierre is well aware that it was un­der the Peo­ple’s Part­ner­ship Gov­ern­ment that the sale was ex­e­cut­ed and that all terms and con­di­tions, ex­cept for the sup­ply of gas, were fi­nalised,” Khan said

Khan said the de­ci­sion to sell the GTL as­sets had the ap­proval of the Peo­ple’s Part­ner­ship

Khan said Ni­Quan re­spond­ed to an RFP in April 2012, when the PP was in pow­er. He said it was in Oc­to­ber 2014 that the board ap­point­ed by the same PP gov­ern­ment ac­cept­ed Ni­Quan as the pre­ferred bid­der

“When the project was at a stand­still in 2016, this Gov­ern­ment re­viewed it and de­ter­mined that it was wor­thy of sup­port, giv­en the fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits that would ac­crue to the Gov­ern­ment and the wider econ­o­my,” Khan said

Khan said that Lee was high­ly crit­i­cal of the project de­spite the fact that Ni­Quan had an ex­pen­di­ture of more than US$125 mil­lion and cre­at­ed jobs in con­struc­tion

“The Mem­ber for Pointe-a-Pierre, in­stead of vil­i­fy­ing the man­age­ment of Ni­Quan, should be com­ple­ment­ing the com­pa­ny for re­viv­ing the project,” Khan said

He said the UNC rhetoric was that for the UNC to suc­ceed, Trinidad and To­ba­go had to fail

“The UNC just does not want to see T&T flour­ish,” Khan said