According to Trinidad and Tobago’s Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine, a design flaw in a bypass gas system installed in a 2009 expansion of the Phoenix Park Gas Processors Limited (PPGPL) facility and the National Gas Company (NGC) was at the root of a problem which caused a nationwide blackout on Good Friday.
Ramnarine explained that all natural gas coming into Point Lisas for use in Point Lisas and for power generation passes through the Phoenix Park facility where is processed and then distributed to many downstream users, including Powergen and TTEC at the Cove Industrial Estate, Tobago.
An internal investigation revealed a NGC automatic bypass system which consists of four bypass valves—A, B, C and D. Valves A and B were installed with the first phase of PPGPL in 1991. Valves C and D were installed with the second phase of PPGPL in 1998. In 2009 the company completed its third phase expansion. At that time, however, there was no concomitant expansion of the NGC automatic bypass facility, and that was the root of the problem experienced on March 29th.
Ramnarine explained, “At 12:22am on March 29, the PPGPL Emergency Shutdown System was activated. At that time the flow of gas through PPGPL was approximately 1555 mmscfd. This activation of the ESD resulted in the cessation of gas flow through the PPGPL plant. In addition, the bypass valve at PPGPL and both bypass valves at NGC opened.
“Unusually high pressures caused the bypass valve at PPGPL to shut in, thus stopping the flow of 600 mmscfd of gas through the PPGPL bypass line. This meant therefore that the system flow was now limited to 1100 mmscfd through both NGC bypass lines. This caused a reduction in the supply to downstream users.”
Ramnarine assured the public that the deficiency in the design of the bypass system could and would be rectified.