The sooner T&T can start its hydrogen project, the better, says Thibault Menage, vice president for the Caribbean at the French listed company HDF Energy.
HDF Energy is the majority shareholder (70%) of T&T’s hydrogen start-up, NewGen Energy Limited (NewGen), a subsidiary of Kenesjay Green Limited (KGL), chaired by Philip Julien.
Its flagship project is the US$300 million NewGen Hydrogen project, designed to deliver approximately 27,000 metric tons per year of carbon-neutral hydrogen for the ultimate benefit of the Point Lisas industrial area.
Menage spoke to The Sunday Business at the Energy Chamber’s annual conference last week.
He observed that for HDF, the Caribbean is essential. HDF Energy already has a footprint in the Caribbean, having implemented a successful first project in Martinique and closing a similar hydrogen project in French Guiana.
To this end, they have established a subsidiary, HDF Energy Caribbean Holdings, which is based in Barbados where it is stationed and is actively recruiting professionals.
“We see the Caribbean as a critical region for the development of HDF as it has everything it takes to make the projects currently economically viable, due to specificities and the NewGen project is a perfect demonstration of these specificities that can be achieved. right now.
“And I say that we are developing projects in Latin America, Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and North Africa. So we have many subsidiaries. Right now the work we are doing in the Caribbean is really front and center,” he said.
But for Ménage, things could move faster.
“The timeframe would be the sooner the better. Because as an investor you put money at risk and you want that money to return, the sooner the better. And a private sector business, which Kenesjay Green actually is, you know, we take risks and time costs money,” he noted.
He saw the signing of a non-binding letter of intent (LOI) between NewGen and the National Gas Company last week as key to accelerating the project.
“All the players are motivated. NGC would kind of be a good catalyst to bring everyone around the table under the NewGen development team’s project architecture, wouldn’t it? But NGC’s interest in becoming the hydrogen aggregator in the future is clear.
“We hope that over the next three months we accelerate very quickly from a contractual point of view, because it is only when the contractual perspective is defined and the framework is defined with everyone in the room lined up. and understanding what they need to do to get this project delivered to Trinidad and Tobago Only then can you get to the deep technical stuff that costs a lot of money, right? ” he said.
In April, HDF Energy, a global hydrogen pioneer, announced that it had acquired a 70% majority stake in the NewGen project led by KGL.
KGL, the project developer, retains 30% of NewGen’s share capital, which will be jointly owned by KGL and an investment vehicle that will allow the inclusion of additional local investors.
In Trinidad, KGL and HDF will together select the optimal smelter technology provider based on a competitive evaluation process.
Menage said that outside of the project prospectus, the KGL team has a strong footprint in Trinidad and Tobago.
“And what HDF had to bring in on top of the investment, which also means cash flow to make the project happen, are complementary skills, which have been developed on other projects I’ve mentioned. previously. So we’re talking about sourcing electrolysers and understanding the market, but we’re also talking about project finance, which is a type of financing structure that’s not very common in Trinidad and Tobago, because it’s inherited from the world of renewable energy, right. So that’s our interest,” he said.
Hydrogen policy needed
KGL chairman Philip Julien said the letter of intent “truly symbolizes a deepening of our relationship which will lead to a memorandum of understanding in the near future”.
“It was in the space where NGC is taking more of a leadership and facilitation role in advancing this hydrogen economy that you heard from the Prime Minister (Tuesday at the opening of the T&T conference on the energy) talk very directly about our respective roles.
“I think the role of NGC will be to facilitate the involvement of other key stakeholders, state stakeholders, whether it’s T&TEC, PowerGen, there are many key stakeholders involved. And I think it’s safe to say that this will allow NewGen to focus on our core business of developing and delivering a world-class, low-carbon hydrogen project. That’s it in a nutshell,” he said.
As for a schedule for a brick and mortar factory?
“We would like this to happen faster, not just for fun, but right now Trinidad and Tobago is in a unique position, in many ways ahead of the world timeline. The whole world is talking of green hydrogen. The reality is that Trinidad has the current lead of having an established infrastructure known as Point Lisas which is the classic hydrogen hub. Many other parts of the world are in the process of developing a hydrogen hub to export and sell their hydrogen in the form of ammonia and methanol.Since Trinidad and Tobago already has these petrochemicals, we have an inherent head start, both commercially on time, to be one of the most competitive low-carbon hydrogen producers in the world and, by extension, one of the most competitive low-carbon ammonia producers. methanol producers in the world,” he explained.
“But we’ll only have that head start for a limited period of time before the rest of the world catches up to us.
“So of course, both from a patriotic and professional standpoint, it would be great to see this project accelerate its development, which is what we believe the deep partnership with NGC will lead to,” he added.
In his keynote address to the conference, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley observed that hydrogen is labeled as the new oil and is said to contain more energy per tonne than any fossil fuel.
While Prime Minister Rowley has spoken favorably of hydrogen, there is no comprehensive policy in place yet.
“We are optimistic that the government will continue to work on ways to achieve this, for example, by accelerating the completion of T&T’s hydrogen policy. We believe this will open up many avenues to accelerate the development of this project,” said Julien.
He noted that there is a huge governmental, commercial and technical push to create the new frontier of hydrogen – hydrogen that is generated with a zero or low carbon footprint.
“And locally at T&T, there’s also a growing urgency from an economic perspective – and that’s in relation to the business reality that the petrochemical industry at T&T has been operating in below-nameplate capacity for a some time now, due to gas supply constraints, with no immediate or guaranteed recourse in the near future,” he said.
Energy Minister Stuart Young lamented that there is a bureaucracy to do business in T&T.
In response to questions from the media following a panel discussion Wednesday at the T&T Energy Conference, Young said, “I think that’s a fact. Anyone would be in the sand if we didn’t recognize that sometimes bureaucracy takes too long to get things done. I find it also sometimes a source of frustration and it is really a call to all people in the public sector.
“You’ve heard Claire Fitzpatrick (president of BPTT) talk even in their company, sometimes decisions take too long. And now we need to speed up our processes while making sure we dot the i’s and cross the t’s and for me, protect the people of T&T.