Here's a sizzling piece of news, hot off the lips of Minister of Energy and Energy Affairs, Kevin Christian Ramnarine: UK company Centrica Energy, which has interests in six blocks offshore Trinidad, has decided to export the 1.2 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas it holds in block 22, north of Tobago, in compressed natural gas (CNG) form, rather than the traditional method of gas liquefaction (LNG).
When I last spoke to Ko Jacobs, the company's Holland-born Country Manager for Trinidad and Tobago, he told me that Centrica, which inherited the reserves in block 22 – originally identified by Petro-Canada – when it purchased them from Canada's Suncor in 2010, was still milling over whether to go the CNG or LNG transportation route.
Now it seems to have made up its mind.
Here's what the minister said at the recent first Caribbean Gas Trading and Supply conference in Port of Spain: "Block 22 gas will be produced and delivered to Tobago via pipeline for pre-treatment and loading into marine CNG carriers. Discussions between Centrica and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) have advanced and an ambitious target of March 1, 2016, is set for first gas. It is expected that CNG will play a greater, future role in the transportation of gas to both emerging and mature markets."
Mr Jacobs had not, up to the time of writing, challenged anything the minister said, so it clearly must be accurate.
Now, some of my four or five readers may not immediately grasp the enormous significance of Centrica's decision but it happens to be truly historic.
Why? Because natural gas has never been exported in CNG form by ship anywhere in the world so far. Indeed, no CNG ships actually exist because no producer, or gas user, has yet indicated their willingness to take a chance on what is still an untried transportation technology.
Until now. So, although efforts are being made by the companies dabbling in CNG transportation, of which the three main ones are SeaNG and Grantech (Canada) and EnerSea (US), to market their systems in other parts of the world, Trinidad and Tobago, once again, is shaping up to be a pioneer in the natural gas business worldwide.
As the Centrica country manager told me in a previous interview: "CNG technology, as such, has long proven itself. It is used in many different applications. The marine element is new, however. What is involved here is a new application of CNG."
Centrica would obviously have had to do a deal with one of the three CNG transportation firms mentioned above, though Ramnarine did not reveal which (he may not yet know).
All three, particularly SeaNG and EnerSea, have been trying for years to sell their CNG transportation systems (the Coselle in the case of the former and Votrans in that of the latter) in the Caribbean region because the distances between the obvious supplier, Trinidad and Tobago, and the receivers of gas elsewhere in the archipelago, are relatively short.
CNG is said to have a clear advantage over LNG for deliveries of modestly-sized volumes up to 1,500 km away from source.
I have been in touch for years with both EnerSea and SeaNG, as their representatives have battled against the natural reluctance of both gas suppliers and receivers to adopt an untried transportation system in the face of the established reliability of LNG shipments.
Both sides always make the same demand: "Show me a CNG vessel."
Of course, neither SeaNG nor EnerSea has been able to do that. The ship classification societies have approved the designs for both the Coselle and Votrans systems, but neither will go to the expense of constructing a ship until they have the business to secure a payback.
Its a classic case of which comes first – the chicken or the egg?
But if Centrica has really made the difficult choice, then there should soon be some activity in a shipyard somewhere.
By selecting CNG, the UK firm has put Caribbean gas needs first, over those of more far-flung locations.
As Jacobs told me previously: "If we choose CNG, it will be for the Caribbean market. It is not usable over long distances, say, to the UK, which is more suitable for LNG."
The Centrica Trinidad and Tobago boss did confirm at the time, that, as part of the CNG transportation solution, the company was in earnest talks with customers in both Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
"Their mission is to convert their utilities from fuel oil to a clean fuel like natural gas."
The two, of course, have long received LNG from Trinidad and Tobago but Jacobs believes "a combination of LNG and CNG would be appropriate for both markets".
Leaving aside the historic transportation dimension for a moment, what Centrica's choice reveals is that the company has grasped the coming importance of the Caribbean (and Central American too) market for natural gas.
I have been trying to drum this fact into the heads of the authorities for months now and hope the message is finally getting through, though even minister Ramnarine, normally a far-sighted fellow, did not come out unequivocally in the speech from which I have been quoting in favour of Trinidad and Tobago deliberately targeting the regional gas market. He mentioned instead "the economic risk of projects and the allocation of limited future gas supplies to new projects".
Ko Jacobs himself is quite clear, however, that the emerging region is one to be taken very seriously.
"Besides Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic", he points out, "other opportunities are expected to present themselves in the future."
Centrica, of course, is also exploring in the NCMA 4 block and confidently expects to find more gas reserves there. Perhaps, it may devote those to the international LNG market, because they will be more expensive to develop and will require a high UK and Asian price to be commercial.
Minister Ramnarine, by the way, also mentioned another potential pioneering gas initiative involving Trinidad and Tobago, when he noted that Excelerate Energy, a leader in ship-based LNG re-gasification, and RWEDea, which recently entered Trinidad and Tobago as a 24 per cent partner with Niko Resources in block NCMA 2, have jointly proposed a ship-based liquefaction project, named Tango, to be sited offshore Trinidad. Ship-based liquefaction, unlike regasification, is a very new technology, not yet installed anywhere, with Royal Dutch Shell only now building the first such facility, in South Korea, which will become the largest floating structure anywhere in the world.
The government has been offered a 50 per cent stake in the project and, if it ever comes to fruition, means yet another ground-breaking achievement in gas for Trinidad and Tobago.
David Renwick was awarded the Hummingbird Medal (Gold) in 2008 for the development of energy journalism in Trinidad and Tobago.