In the course of the year, natural gas demand grew with sales increasing 7 % over the previous year. 1999 was the second year NGC had been adversely affected by depressed petrochemical and iron and steel market prices as thee was a corresponding low return on sales. The company saw profit margins fall precipitously from TT$353 million in 1997 to TT$19 million in 1998, and, in 1999, there was some recovery, mainly arising from the robust performances of subsidiary companies, enabling the NGC group to record a net profit of $TT33.7 million.
Despite the constraints imposed by the depressed market conditions, natural gas remained the fastest growing energy source in the world and this factor was evidenced by the fact that the country remained a prime investment location for gas – based operations and the Point Lisas Estate was now the home to 22 large industrial plants. In the domestic front, natural gas, compared to the other available fossil fuels, remained the cheapest fuel enabling NGC to market natural gas to the growing light industrial/commercial sector, which comprised 95 small consumers on the distribution network.
In addition, new petrochemical plants were on the drawing board, warranting the construction of a new marine and port facility at Port Point Lisas, the state-of-the-art, Savonetta Pier No. IV. This multi-user pier was viewed as being key to the overall strategy of meeting the import and export needs of new customers locating their businesses at Point Lisas. By the end of 1999, the outlook for the industry, the economy and NGC was at least in the medium term favourable having passed the worst.
The successful commissioning of LNG Train 1 in the last quarter of 1999 added to the mystic surrounding its establishment as the first greenfield LNG project to be developed in the Western Hemisphere in 25 years. This fact and the project’s short gestation period cemented the applause worldwide, moreso as it had occurred in a small country such as Trinidad.
NGC’s key role in this event led investors to pay more attention to the country and to prospects of establishing methanol and ammonia plants as well as value added processes like aluminium and ethylene.
Since 1992, the Company had done all it could to expand and build a new energy landscape, evaluating and analyzing projects that ultimately benefited the shareholder and country. Thus developed a new role crystallized from the company’s mandate of ‘prime mover’. This new role, viewed as a custodian role, was aptly memorialized in the idea of the ‘Keeper of the Flame,’ which described the essence of NGC in all its activities at home and abroad.
At the end of the 1990s, NGC emerged as a successful group of companies with interests spanning the entire spectrum of the gas business. NGC with NEC and Labidco therefore provided an integrated ‘one-stop-shop’ service to new investors seeking to locate natural gas-based industries in Trinidad and Tobago. In 2000, NGC finalized arrangements for the establishment of two further LNG trains. The success of this initiative made the natural gas story in Trinidad being brought on to the world’s energy stage with many other countries seeking to copy what was termed the Trinidad model.
NGC had reached its 25th year of operations with much it could be proud of.
These achievements included:
- Trinidad and Tobago becoming the world’s leading exporter of ammonia and methanol.
- The leading role NGC had taken in the initiation of LNG and the promotion of a number of new steel technologies such as HBI and Iron Carbide.
- 25 years of uninterrupted profitability.
- Attainment of a peak level of gas sales, which increased from 570 MMscf/d in 1994 to 1 Bcf/d in 2000.
- Assets increasing to ……