CEO: No choice but to shutdown plant

More than 400 persons are facing an uncertain future today after the Caribbean Nitrogen Company (CNC) was forced to close its’ doors yesterday.

In a release, CNC CEO Jerome Dookie confirmed the closure of their ammonia plant at the Point Lisas Industrial Estate.

He said the immediate shutdown was as a result of an action taken by the National Gas Company, “To cut off gas supply to the plant.”

He said, “We had no choice but to shut down the plant to ensure the well-being of our people and protect our investment.”

“Unfortunately, this action by NGC will negatively affect the future of our 110 loyal workers.”

Dookie estimated the move could also affect as many as 300 additional workers who were indirectly connected to the operations of the company.

Dookie added, “The situation is highly regrettable given that CNC has been in a dialogue with the National Gas Company for almost a year.”

He explained, “CNC had even accepted multiple interim extensions of our gas supply until yesterday (Tues) at a detrimental cost to itself.”

“These extensions were implemented to facilitate further discussions between CNC and NGC to agree on the terms of a long-term gas supply contract. The NGC has, however, been unresponsive to the many concessions CNC has made, and unrealistic as to the global forces affecting not only CNC’s exports but Trinidad’s exports of ammonia, which must compete in the international marketplace.”

“The NGC is unfortunately making Trinidad the world’s marginal producer of ammonia with its uneconomical pricing policies.”

Dookie also referred to the government’s intervention in the matter.

“We acknowledge the efforts of the Government to assist in the resolution of this matter and the key role that it plays in maintaining the stability and sustainability of this vital sector in the national interest.”

He said it was CNC’s sincere hope that government understand their wish to protect the interests of employees, partners, customers and shareholders.

Dookie concluded, “The company regrets the negative impact the shutdown will have on everyone involved,” but, “While we remain committed to solving all outstanding issues with the National Gas Company, we will also continue to explore all available options to protect our interests.”

In an immediate response, NGC advised that effective January 24, the Gas Sales Agreement between the two companies had expired.

Responding to questions via an unsigned release, officials said, “Regrettably and despite NGC’s best efforts, no agreement was reached with CNC on this matter.”

They went on to assure that, “NGC will continue to exert all reasonable efforts to try to secure a mutally-acceptable agreement.”

However, they stressed, “These efforts are predicated on the new reality of higher gas acquisition costs and the need for improved efficiencies across the value chain.”

Officials said NGC would continue to honour its obligations to all contracted customers and consistent with existing agreements.

Pointing out that all contract discussions were privileged and subject to the strictest confidentiality, officials declined to offer any further information.

They concluded that both the government and the NGC were mandated to act in the best commercial and interests of the people of T&T, and that Tuesday’s action was consistent with their mandate.

Contacted on the issue, Energy Chamber CEO Dax Driver reserved comment while calls to OWTU president general Ancel Roget went unanswered.