Plans revealed last year for a new fuel storage terminal in the East End district do not top the list of priorities for the Progressives-led government, Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts indicated last week.
“The government has a million other things to do and, if it happens, it happens and if it won’t, it won’t,” Mr. Tibbetts said. “I am not going to stop all the other things that I am able to do just to get this done.”
A joint development agreement signed last year between the Cayman Islands government and a Texas-based energy company had sought to eventually shutter Cayman’s current bulk fuel storage facility in South Sound and build a new one in East End, according to government records obtained under the Freedom of Information Law.
The three-page memorandum, signed in April 2014, states that Cayman and Navasota Clean Energy LLC intend to “establish a fully integrated development plan and structure such that they might attract one or more [fuel] terminal companies” that are interested in fuel supply and transshipment operations.
According to the agreement, the goals for the new storage facility include: Establishing a long-term fuel supply plan, providing revenue to government, creating jobs, reducing the “fuel factor” costs on Caribbean Utilities Company bills and “building infrastructure to support the current cruise ship initiative.” Under the agreement, the Cayman Islands government undertakes to “[w]ork with Navasota on potential sites on the East End of Grand Cayman and provide preferred rights of way for [a] delivery pipeline from East End to [the] current pipeline system.”
More than a year has passed since the signing of the memorandum, which does not legally bind government to move forward on the project. East End MLA Arden McLean and North Side MLA Ezzard Miller questioned whether the matter was still an issue government is considering in light of certain communications they have obtained from companies wishing to bid on the project.
Mr. McLean, in whose district the project was slated to be built, said initially that he was never informed of the memorandum of understanding and said on Friday in the Legislative Assembly that he had still not been given a copy.
Mr. Tibbetts said no final decisions had been made and that nothing would be done unless “consensus” surrounding the project might be achieved. He said that included discussing the issue with elected members of the eastern districts.
“It is a fair assumption that fuel prices in the country could go down by 20 percent [if the new terminal is built] and that’s, in their minds … conservative,” Mr. Tibbetts said. “The best location they have discovered [for the project] is in East End … because of proximity of deep water to the shore and a less populated area.
“But I want to make it absolutely clear that government has given no commitment…nothing of the sort.”
The Navasota proposal seeks to consider an onshore bulk storage facility that could initially fill fuel tankers heading to the central and eastern Caribbean Sea. If it goes forward, a storage location would need to be considered close to shore, but in a far more remote area than the current bulk storage facility in South Sound. Mr. Tibbetts said last year that in the long term, the storage facility could eventually be used to replace the current facility in South Sound.
“If something like this becomes feasible, it is very likely that Caribbean Utilities Company and other local entities could get their fuel much cheaper than they’re getting it now,” he said at the time. “It could also be a means by which more competition is brought to bear in the retail fuel sector, but all of these things are what we are going to be examining.”
The joint development agreement with Navasota Energy bears some resemblance to a 2010 proposal by local businessman Joe Imparato that would have included a hydrocarbon [fuel] storage facility in East End as part of a larger seaport development.
At the time, Mr. Imparato said the idea would be to relocate the current fuel storage tanks at Jackson Point on South Church Street to a proposed East End seaport. Propane storage on Walkers Road would also be relocated there under the proposal. Public safety was cited as the major reason to move the fuel storage tanks.