Cheaper gas coming to Aruba

ORANJESTAD, Aruba, Tuesday December 15, 2010 – Aruba’s economy will receive an expected boost with the coming arrival of a guaranteed supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) for power generation. 

Officials with the Valero Aruba Refinery and the Government of Aruba announced Monday the signing of a memorandum of understanding to deliver LNG to Aruba, with the aim of helping to reduce utility costs and lower emissions on the island.

At the time of the signing, Valero executives also announced that the Valero Aruba Refinery has completed a plantwide program to get refinery units ready to restart, and that the restart process will begin within the next several days.

Both announcements represent a boost to Aruba’s economy. Generating power through liquefied natural gas rather than more expensive fuel oil has significant potential to reduce costs both for the refinery and the island.

Prime Minister Mike Eman and Minister of Finance & Energy Mike de Meza, who are both actively working on this project, also see an important synergy between Aruba and Valero in this endeavor.

Valero, an international manufacturer and marketer of transportation fuels, petrochemical products and power, stated that it had spent more than US$90 million so far getting the refinery ready to operate. The restart comes nearly 18 months after it was shut down in July 2009 for economic reasons and uncertainty in the tax regime going forward. The restart was supported in part by the settlement agreement reached with the Government of Aruba and approved by the Parliament of Aruba last May. Throughout the shutdown, employees remained on the payrolls, and in June 2010, Valero announced that the tax settlement along with an improved economy had made it possible to consider restarting the refinery. A plantwide “turnaround,” or thorough maintenance period, was begun shortly afterward. Now that the turnaround work has been completed, Valero has determined that market conditions support the refinery’s operation.

“We are very happy to announce that the refinery, which is a crucial part of Aruba’s economy, will soon be in operation,” said Kim Bowers, Valero’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel. “We would like to thank our employees and our contractors for all their hard work getting the plant ready to operate safely and efficiently, and we appreciate the efforts of Prime Minister Mike Eman and Finance Minister Mike de Meza that have made this day possible.”

The refinery employs more than 650 people full time, and refinery investments and financial impact represent more than 12 percent of Aruba’s gross domestic product.

The startup process will begin on selected refinery units and will continue through December, with the expectation that all refinery units will be operating fully by the end of January.

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