Jamaica gets an 'A' from billionaire American investor

Jamaica gets an 'A' from billionaire American investor

Executive editor — publications

Monday, October 09, 2017

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Billionaire American businessman Wes Edens is giving the Jamaican Government high marks for the role it played in paving the way for his company's multimillion-dollar investment here.

“I give them an A. I really give them an A,” Edens, the chairman of New Fortress Energy, told the Jamaica Observer last week on the sidelines of the Natural Gas Conference at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.

Edens was responding to the Observer's request to grade the Government's performance in facilitating his company's entry into Jamaica after New Fortress won a bid to supply the country with liquefied natural gas (LNG) two years ago.

“I think when you look at an economy, the role Government plays is a very substantial one, and all I can relate to is kinda what our experience has been, but they've been so positive in terms of identifying problems and coming up with solutions,” said Edens, who spoke on the opening day of the three-day conference.

“Inevitably there's lots of hurdles and roadblocks you come into. That's not the point; the point is when you find that, can you come together to solve it, and our experiences in Jamaica are among the top we've had anywhere in any country in terms of working together with the Government,” he added.

New Fortress Energy's is now shipping LNG to Jamaica Public Service (JPS), a long-awaited development that JPS says will lead to lower energy costs.

In August this year JPS signed a power purchase agreement with New Fortress for the construction of a 94-megawatt (MW) power plant at the Jamalco bauxite operations in Clarendon which, Edens said, will be built in the next 18 to 20 months.

In addition, New Fortress will supply the local electricity company's 190 MW gas-fired power plant being developed in Old Harbour, St Catherine. And, the American company has already started supplying Red Stripe with LNG, as well as JPS' plant in Bogue, St James.

New Fortress' investments in Jamaica have topped the $200-million mark and, according to Edens, the company will eventually be providing “well over 400 megawatts” of power.

“We feel great about our involvement in Jamaica and we have lots of things going on,” he said. “What started with a re-gas facility and pipeline in Montego Bay is now expanded to a new terminal being built offshore Old Harbour to support the 190-megawatt power plant that's being developed there.”

“At Montego Bay we built a truck-loading facility that allows us to ship LNG around the island, and that's for containers and tankers. The first of those went to Red Stripe, I believe last week,” Edens stated.

“We think there's going to be lots of industrial users... I'd be disappointed if this time next year we didn't have dozens of customers,” he added.

Edens said that although his company came to Jamaica in January 2015 on the basis of a request for proposal placed by JPS, the island was already in New Fortress' plan for expansion in the Caribbean.

“We would have come here in any case, given the size of the country and its proximity. It's in a great part of the Caribbean, so if you're going to be serious about being in the Caribbean, Jamaica is a terrific place to be,” he explained.

The idea, he said, is for Jamaica to serve as an LNG distribution hub. The terminal being built offshore Old Harbour should serve as a permanently moored Floating Storage Regasification Unit with “a big hunk of LNG waiting to be distributed”.

“So, just as we service our Montego Bay plant from a ship-to-ship transfer, we can do the same thing for all of the other nations that are proximate to us. Regionally there's lots and lots of places that we are interested in, we know they are [interested], so I'm quite optimistic that in the next two years you'll see some meaningful [movement],” Edens said, adding that he and his team have already had discussions with other Caribbean countries.

“We have nothing to report yet, but I think it's going to happen very soon,” he said.

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