Kaieteur News – Guyana is an oil producer and when oil comes up, it does so with gas. The gas-to-shore project is a major infrastructural project, which is being planned.
The project, however, has run into a storm of criticisms. These range from the location on the other side of the Demerara Harbour, the lack of information about the technical and economic studies, the ‘worthlessness’ of natural gas at this time, the implications for the public debt of undertaking such a major project and the fact that Guyana does not appear to have the capacity to utilize all the gas which is being produced during petroleum production.
No one has yet answered what is going to happen to all the additional gas, which cannot be utilized by the proposed plant. Will this be flared or will it be both flared and re-injected back into the seabed. These are by no means moot concerns.
However, there appears to be another reason why there are so many reservations about the project. And the real reason it appears is because it is felt that this is yet another pet projects of Bharrat Jagdeo whose track record of large-scale projects is nothing short of calamitous.
Jagdeo is a big thinker. But his big thinking has gotten the country nowhere. He was President when the Amalia Falls Hydroelectric Project had commenced. That project was fraught with controversy and ended up having to be abandoned after criticisms by the Opposition APNU forced the developer to back away from the deal. The PPP/C for some inexplicable reasons still wants to resurrect this project thereby raising concerns as to why it would need both a hydroelectric project and a gas-to-shore plant, each of which can meet the country’s energy demand.
The public is wary of Jagdeo and his big plans. They remember the fiasco at Skeldon.
The Skeldon Sugar Factory is the biggest failure of the Jagdeo administration. The project plunged the already tottering sugar industry further into financial misery and has saddled the country with more than US$185M in additional debt. That monumental failure alone should have forced Jagdeo into political retirement.
Among the other failures were the Marriot Hotel project and the Berbice River Bridge. Both of these projects were completed behind schedule and both have involved flawed financial models, which effectively give preferences to favoured shareholders. The National Insurance Scheme’s investment in the Bridge is in jeopardy, thereby threatening the viability of the Scheme.
The future of both the Marriot and the Bridge remains uncertain. The APNU+AFC had nationalized the Berbice River Bridge and continued with the Marriot Hotel. If both crash, the economy can crash with them.
The pushback against the gas-to-shore project must be assessed in light of the miserable track record of Jagdeo in orchestrating large projects. People are jumpy that Jagdeo and the PPP/C may be attempting again another project, which will become an environmental risk and which can bankrupt the entire economy.
It is not clear why the Wales area was identified for the project. Considering the population density of the West Bank, and the volume of marine traffic, it is incomprehensible how, from a safety perspective, that location can be suited for such a project.
How does one run a pipeline along a river on which vessels have been known to crash into the bridge and in which GPL cables have been severed? The proposed location of the plant is too close to population centres; it poses an extreme risk to life and limb as well as to the Demerara harbour on the other side.
The project is going to come in for stinging rebuke from environmentalists. It makes a mockery of the talk about a low carbon development plan. Natural gas is not a clean source of energy; it is a greater pollutant than carbon dioxide, which is primarily responsible for rising global temperatures.
As was mentioned on a recent radio programme on Kaieteur News, Guyana has made commitments under the Paris Agreement to move to 100 percent renewable by 2025. The gas-to-shore project is an affront to those commitments, and will cause disrepute to Guyana’s environmental standing.
But the greatest fear is that Guyana should not at this stage of its development be expending huge sums to finance a gas-to-shore project. There is always a possibility that the PPP/C will move towards a Public Private Partnership model for this project, but this does not remove the need for a massive investment on the part of the government.
It appears that every major project, which Jagdeo has touched, has attracted its fair share of justifiable criticism. His involvement in chaperoning big projects in Guyana over the next five years will cause further apprehensions, most of which cannot be dismissed easily.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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