Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, centre, cuts the ribbon at the recent opening ceremony for the NiQuan Energy Trinidad Ltd Gas To Liquids (GTL) plant. Looking on are director Nicholas Galt, left, vice chair of board Allison Lewis; Energy and Energy Industry Minister Franklin Khan; Chairman of the Board John Andrews; Group CEO Ainsley Gill, and Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon at NiQuan GTL plant, GTL Drive, Petrotrin, Pointe-a-Pierre.

A week after NiQuan’s Gas to Liquids (GTL) plant was triumphantly opened by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, it is either not making any of the promised diesel for export or if it is, the plant is doing significantly less than its capacity.

The Business Guardian has been told that the plant is at this time making wax but no diesel but Ainsley Gill, Group CEO of NiQuan Energy has denied this, only admitting that it is experiencing what he calls “teething problems.”

In a telephone interview on Monday Gill said; “Teething challenges are correct. We are making diesel, we are making wax, we are making Naphta, everything in a point in time, wax, Naphta, diesel. We have been circulating it in our fractionator as well as in our hydrocracker, so we have product in our tanks. But it’s in a small quantity because we are going through a teething issue.”

Gill insisted that the teething problem was not unique to processing plants and his company should expect to have problems at the start.

“It’s just natural to the environment, we’ll get it right but it’s a teething issue. Nameplate capacity will be met, that is not the issue, it’s getting the product on spec (specification), the fine-tuning aspect of it, every plant in this country went through it.”

Last week, the Prime Minister lauded NiQuan’s start up of the project, promising $2 billion in taxes during the life of the project.

Rowley crowed, “This gas-to-liquids plant is a prime example of the successful development of the country’s export potential of higher value-added products, through the collaboration of the private sector, the banking sector and the Government.

“Let me congratulate NiQuan and all parties involved in seeing this project through to completion. I wish NiQuan the greatest success in its future operations because its success redounds to the country’s benefit and that of all its citizens.”

Rowley said at the opening that NiQuan had led the plant out of the “junkyard”, perhaps referencing back to 2012 when then Petrotrin chairman Lindsay Gillette said the already billion-dollar plant should be sold as scrap iron to help recoup some of the massive losses.

“I have said before that the internal management of the project by Petrotrin and WGTL was an undeniable failure, and this remains true. However, fortunately for this gas-to-liquids plant, the Petrotrin and WGTL failure was not the end of the road. The Government set out to make the best of a situation over which we had little control in the past,” he said.

Rowley said he recognised the NiQuan project as an opportunity for the country to gain some benefit from an investment “which otherwise could not have been operationalised.”

“The Government facilitated this project by sourcing and securing a supply of gas to the plant, to a maximum of 31 mmscf per day, through the T&T Upstream Downstream Energy Operations Company Ltd,” he said.

Gill boasted that GTL was the future, with clean diesel in the midst of increasing moves to reduce our carbon footprint due to climate change concerns.

“GTL represents clean energy—a bridge from a dirty energy past to a cleaner energy future. It’s a bridge that everyone wanted to build but, for many reasons, most of them have failed. With this plant, NiQuan Energy has built the first bridge and there will be more, many more. And not just in T&T and the Americas but around the world. Our clean energy products will make a difference. That’s the belief that’s driven us from day one. It’s what we promised to deliver and we’ve kept our promise here today,” Gill said.

Initially, Gill was insisting that there was no issue with the production of the diesel and said the company was accustomed to keeping its business internally.

“As you would appreciate we keep a lot of things for all of the right reasons internally, not because we don’t want to disclose it but because we have to run our business in a very managed way,” he said.

Told we were aware that the plant was not making diesel Gill retorted, “There is speculation, please don’t treat it differently to making up for NiQuan because everybody else takes the opportunity to look to us for failure as opposed to success, just because of the uniqueness of this project.”

“It would be absolutely 100 per cent incorrect that we’re not producing, we’re producing product. We have product in our tanks and so anybody who is making those representations will all be from a malicious point of view. Commercial quantity is anything you can do to sell. We’re commercial, you have to define commercial.”

Asked if the plant was producing its expected daily amount of 2,640 barrels of product, Gill told the Business Guardian, “No we are not producing that at this point in time. We’re in the production stage. In any plant starting up, especially ours which has been for a long time, you start it up slowly, so anybody who is giving you representations is a very malicious person.”

He added, “The plant does 2,640 period! What we are doing is taking it slow to get to that, it just requires it. Then you go and you run it at particular rates, you get stabilisation, you line your plant down. So don’t take something that is natural to the industry because we don’t want to go and wrap it and fast and stress integrity to make up for somebody else. We keep our business very close. So anybody making those representations are absolutely consistent with what I have been seeing in the market, fabrication.”

Gill said NiQuan’s first cargo is destined to be in the market in April.

He said all of NiQuan’s products will be sold in external markets with the first shipment being 60,000.

“Curtis I am tired of people just looking to say things, this is a country where people just make things up and they think they are happy with it. They have to stop that,” Gill ended.