ENERGY MINISTER SAYS BNOCL TO BE REFASHIONED
By Emmanuel Joseph
The state-owned Barbados National Oil Company Limited (BNOCL) is being revamped to fit Government’s revised National Energy Policy amid concern that the country has fallen significantly behind in reaching renewable energy targets.
With the Mia Mottley administration still intent on this country achieving 100 per cent dependence on renewable energy by 2030, Minister of Energy and Business Senator Lisa Cummins said on Wednesday that the “refashioning” of the BNOCL will also entail a name change.
She was adamant that BNOCL must not be seen as just an oil company but as an energy entity.
“We are not just the national oil company… and we had meetings just yesterday, on what the overall agenda for an energy company, much broader than a historical oil company needs to look like,” Cummins said on Wednesday while delivering the keynote address at the official launch of a project being undertaken by biofuel company, Rum and Sargassum, at the Bagnall’s Point Gallery in the Pelican Village Craft Centre.
“We have a prime minister who the world knows and the world recognises and associates her with climate resilience, energy transitioning and Barbados as a world leader. And that world leader nation that she leads cannot be the nation that has an entity called the Barbados National Oil Company. And so, there is an entire refashioning which we are currently deep in the throes of and more will come on that in time to come,” the Energy Minister disclosed.
Senator Cummins said substantive work is now required of the ministry, the BNOCL and its sister companies, the Barbados National Terminal Company Limited (BNTCL) and the National Petroleum Corporation (NPC).
“They have a role to play in the energy transition and partnerships like this one [Rum and Sargassum],” she stated.
Meanwhile, Minister Cummins told the gathering that Barbados has a steep climb to get back on track to meet its clean energy transition goal in seven years.
She noted that since the National Energy Policy was developed in 2019, there had been many changes which prompted a review of the policy. Since 2021 when the Government relooked the policy, Cummins said, even further changes were made to the renewable energy transition planning.
She recalled that apart from the 2030 target set in 2019, it was also agreed that the Government would take responsibility for an energy mix that entails wind, solar, biomass and bioenergy and storage.
“Have we hit those targets? I know we all know that in many instances, we are not there yet,” Cummins admitted.
In outlining what had been done so far, she acknowledged that Barbados had fallen way short in some instances.
“We projected, in principle, that we needed to be able to reach targets with regard to how we would onboard energy. We were projecting as of 2019, that we would have approximately 166 megawatts of wind. We have five megawatts of wind. For solar, we projected that we needed to have, by 2030, 340 megawatts of solar; we currently have just under 100 megawatts of solar. Bioenergy, even small, and storage . . . we needed to have 204 megawatts of wind. Many of you are familiar with the Trents facility which I will officially open later on this week; we have five megawatts of wind.
“And so, when I give you the difference between what we needed to do versus where we now are, as at 2023, you can see the steep climb that is now necessary for us to be able to reach the targets we have set for ourselves for 2030,” the Energy Minister said.
Against that background, she said the work that Rum and Sargassum is doing leads the country into the discussion on innovation.
Chief Executive Officer of BNOCL James Browne said the state-owned energy provider is now collaborating with Rum and Sargassum which is compressing sargassum seaweed, Black Belly sheep manure and wastewater from rum to produce biofuel for motor vehicles.
“This is an opportunity now that we can use natural resources to support this project because, as you know, natural gas reduces CO2 emissions by 30 per cent versus gasoline, diesel and so forth,” he stated.
Browne disclosed that the production of gasoline and diesel was becoming a smaller part of BNOCL’s portfolio as it continues to make the switch from fossil fuel to renewable energy.
“Over the last couple of years, we have been looking at ways to refine the gasoline, how to refine the diesel, how to refine the fuel oil we bring in for Light and Power by trying to clip the ash content, trying to clip the sulphur content, trying to reduce the acid content, but they are all fossil fuels,” he pointed out.
“While we don’t have a lot of indigenous gas, we have sargassum seaweed. Fortunately for us, a lot of our team are technical people as well. BNOCL is not only supposed to play a role in supplying fossil fuel for energy projects. We also do some renewable energy projects as well. We are also supposed to look at solutions internally and see how we can commercialise them. We are supposed to help bring a project like this right through the details because we have the experience,” he added.
Founder of Rum and Sargassum Dr Legena Henry pointed out that the current renewable energy spread in Barbados is 21 per cent wind power, 38 per cent solar power, five per cent biomass and 36 per cent storage.
“And from my engineering perspective . . . that’s going to be hard going from an almost 100 per cent fossil fuel-powered country to just five per cent liquid fuel power, because with all the technology, there are also the pipes, the valves, the expertise, the people who work in the field…there are all of these things over how many decades around this liquid fuel industry.
“And so, we think going to biofuel is an easier transition technology than going to something like fully wind and solar-powered,” she contended.
The engineer and university lecturer explained that Rum and Sargassum’s biofuel was produced in the laboratory at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the company was in the process of commercialising it to power motor cars. Some biofuel service stations are also to be rolled out across Barbados shortly.