Jan 16, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – It seems that the PPP government refuses to learn. It seems bent on repeating the costly errors of recent history. This time, the undertaking of choice is the expensive gas to shore project now supposedly earmarked for Wales, as stated in very careful and limited fashion by the government’s Vice President, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo. The concern is that as the party’s leadership goes down that road, it is the taxpaying public, which is saddled with the bill, usually heavy debt, for which the interest alone can bring about buckling of the knees from bowing under the accumulated burdens.
But the usually talkative Vice President is closemouthed on the likely selection of the Wales site for the gas to shore project. This is now becoming a characteristic feature of the Vice President, the PPP government’s lead spokesperson on anything related to this country’s oil. On oil, he is strangely silent, and extremely guarded about what he has to say. Nonetheless, it would have been helpful, if any relevant studies supporting the choice of the Wales location could be released for public consumption. To date, nothing has been forthcoming, which looks like the way that it is going to be until the current government and its leaders are good and ready to throw any information to citizens for them to gnaw at and be contented.
As we share this, we wonder why Wales has arisen as a competing site for consideration. This is so, since the previous coalition government had commissioned studies on site feasibility during its time in office. The emphasis was on, among other components, where is the most cost-effective place that the gas to shore project should be located. From a 2017 engagement with Energy Narrative, a consulting group, three possible locations were identified as suitable, with different strengths pinpointed. The potential sites identified were Georgetown by the Sophia substation, Clonbrook along the East Coast Demerara, and New Amsterdam close to the Canefield substation. As said before, each of the three sites has something going for it.
First, the Georgetown-Sophia connection could feed energy into the existing power apparatus for further electricity distribution across the national grid. It goes without saying that the Greater Georgetown area suffers from a state of near constant congestion, which may not make it the best possible location. Then, there was the New Amsterdam site, which has several positives on its side: 1) it is near the Canefield substation; 2) it offers space for the development of a deep-water facility; 3) it facilitates construction of a new industrial site; and 4) it enables breaking ground on new energy-intensive industries. Looking at New Amsterdam in a clinical way, it seems to have everything going for it, and is without comparison. Last, there was the Clonbrook, East Demerara proposed site, which has much space available for development, and is less busy than the capital city (and Sophia). Clonbrook also has this big one: it is the cheapest, meaning costing the least to deliver the natural gas to shore.
It is undeniable that a lot of study and work was done on a possible site for the gas to shore project. Though not known at this time, the cost of the studies could not have been cheap. So, the questions of the moment come down to this: why is the PPP government talking about another site? That is, why is the Vice President speaking about Wales as being under consideration to locate the gas to shore project? How long are we going to, through government after government, engage in these duplicative exercises that are never less than expensive and time consuming? The coalition did it, when it discarded almost everything that its predecessor in office had prioritized. Now the current PPP government is doing the same by ignoring whatever the coalition did before. It does so when it gives short thrift to the proposed Georgetown, New Amsterdam, and Clonbrook sites. It does so when it barrels full speed ahead with Wales seemingly being a done deal.
At the end of the day, Guyanese taxpayers have to foot the bill and borrowings to finance the project. This enormous one ranges from between US$300M to over US$500M. By any stretch, that is a huge amount of money, and it starts with the selection of the best possible site. Our hope is that leaders will put politics and any ulterior agendas aside, and ensure that Guyana gets this one right. We cannot afford to fail on something as big as this.
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