By Shane D. Williams
The National Gas Company of Belize has one week of operations under its belt and with the emergence of this public-private partnership, Belize is one step closer to energy independence.
Up until April 30, 2020, liquid petroleum gas (LPG) was imported into Belize by foreign-owned entities, mainly Belize Western Energy Limited, Gas Tomza Limited and Zeta Gas. Though the Government of Belize regulates the industry, the foreigners in control of those companies in effect controlled Belize’s LPG market through the supply and demand chain. They determined how much butane gas was in the country, how it was procured and from where it was procured. Therefore, the acquisition process benefitted their business interests multiple times before it reached our gas tanks at home. Before reaching Belize, LPG was shipped from the United States’ Gulf Coast to facilities in Guatemala and Honduras. It was then trucked through Guatemala to Belize, adding to the acquisition cost along the way. As importers/wholesalers, they even entered the retail market to gain control of that level of the supply chain. Recently, they started flooding the retail market with cheap unsustainably priced butane to squeeze out smaller local retailers in order to grab a strangle hold on retail distribution as well. With butane gas being the most essential to our daily lives, this foreign control made Belize one of the most energy dependent countries in the world.
May 1, 2020 will go down as a small step operationally for the National Gas Company of Belize but a giant symbolic step. With an initial investment of over $60 million, the National Gas Company has built facilities for LPG to be shipped directly to Belize at a state of the art gas terminal/distribution center capable of storing as much as 1.5 million gallons of butane. This is can satisfy more than a month and a half of our country’s national demand. Local retailers are most excited by the company’s commitment to stay out of the retail market – no more bullying by the wholesaler. Consumers are most excited by the promise of immediately lower prices due to a decrease in acquisition variables and cost.
It is not far-fetched to expect the National Gas Company to eventually look into local refining and other opportunities that will make Belize even more energy independent. For now, however, Belizeans can be comforted by the fact that the individuals benefiting from the import of butane, like the rest of us, depend on what’s cooking in our kitchen for their daily bread both figuratively and literally.
By Shane D. Williams