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NGC blames 'liquids' for blackout

By Camille Bethel camille.bethel@trinidadexpress.com

Sixty per cent of the country was without an electricity supply for several hours yesterday.

The blackout occurred following a problem emanating from a National Gas Company (NGC) offshore platform causing the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC) to shut down its power stations.

Customers affected by the power outage started calling the Express newsroom to complain they had no electricity or water supply.

Speaking at the post-Cabinet media conference yesterday at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair, Minister of Energy and Energy Affairs Kevin Ramnarine confirmed that the power outage, which affected areas in Arima, Santa Cruz, Five Rivers, Diego Martin, Chaguanas and as far as Point Fortin, emerged from a NGC offshore platform.

Ramnarine said there was an increase in liquids—oil, water and condensate—getting into NGC's domestic system.

This is the system connecting the Poui Alpha platform on the east coast to the NGC's domestic grid which brings the gas all the way to the Phoenix Park valve station or slug catcher, he said.

"As a result of that, there was a reduction in the natural gas pressure to T&TEC and as a consequence of that the PowerGen plant at Point Lisas, the country's largest power plant in terms of capacity, went down and the PowerGen Penal plant was also impacted this morning as a consequence," Ramnarine said.

Ramnarine said as a solution to the problem NGC had to shut down most of its supply to its major customers on the Point Lisas Industrial Estate in order to direct its natural gas to PowerGen and T&TEC.

Ramnarine said although he had a good idea what caused the problem he did not have a proper report before him and so did not want to say anything conclusive.

"Just to say we are currently moving all of the liquid from the pipeline and NGC is being assisted in doing this by Petrotrin. I am advised that they should have all of that liquid removed and they will be working into the night. Those liquids are of course hydrocarbon liquids, those liquids will be stored in the Pointe-a-Pierre facility somewhere.

"You can't dump that liquid, neither can you burn that liquid, it has to be stored somewhere. So we expect within the next 24 to 48 hours things will return to some normalcy at Point Lisas," Ramnarine said.

He said he planned to go to Phoenix Park last night to see what was happening first hand.

In a telephone interview yesterday, T&TEC's general manager, Kelvin Ramsook, told the Express that around 6.15 yesterday morning T&TEC received information that the gas pressure at NGC was very low and as a result the gas supply at the various power stations were affected."

Ramsook said PowerGen and Trinity Power stations were forced to cut back on their generation because of this.

"Roughly about 7.10 a.m. they could not carry the load and we had to start shedding customers. So we started with the Mittal plant and then at 7.15 a.m. Trincity, Westmoorings, all of those stations went off. I would say about 60 per cent of the country was affected this morning, right up to 7.49 am."

He said, after 7.50 a.m. there was an improvement in the gas supply and T&TEC was able to get the power stations to bring back on their machines as they started to pick up load.

"Power was restored to all stations by 9.30 a.m," he said.

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