Fri | Oct 30, 2020

Rainforest to power Kingston factory with LNG

Published:Friday | September 25, 2020 | 12:11 AMSteven Jackson - Senior Business Reporter

Jerome Miles, general manager of Rainforest Seafoods Limited.
Jerome Miles, general manager of Rainforest Seafoods Limited.

Rainforest Seafoods will start installing a 1.5-megawatt natural gas power plant in Kingston next week, taking another step towards energy independence.

The company will set up three 500-kilowatt turbines that will feed on natural gas. The plant will power the business, which requires heavy refrigeration for the seafood it processes for local and export markets.

Rainforest is investing approximately US$2.5 million (about $360 million) in the gas plant, said CEO Brian Jardim.

“It will further diversify our energy mix,” he said.

The seafood processor already powers some of its operation using solar systems with 1MW of combined capacity – a 300kW system in Montego Bay, 500kW in Kingston, and 200kW in other parts of the island.

The natural gas for the power plant will be supplied by New Fortress Energy, the sole supplier of liquified natural gas to multiple industrial clients in Jamaica, as well as electricity grid manager Jamaica Public Service Company, JPS, which was the American gas company’s very first client.

Rainforest General Manager Jerome Miles said the installation of the LNG plant will begin on Monday and should be completed in December. The relatively quick buildout is facilitated by modular parts already built off-site. The heaviest construction on site will be the piping and wiring.

“The project will pay for itself in three years,” Miles said, while explaining that, from day one, the variable costs to operate the plant, which includes paying for gas and the finance costs to the bank, will still work out to less than what Rainforest pays for power supplied by JPS.

“It is an absolute no-brainer,” he said.

“We are going completely off the grid in Kingston on Slipe Road,” Miles said. “Energy is our biggest operational cost because we are a frozen foods business, with a factory here in Kingston. So if we can reduce our biggest cost, then it significantly improves our local and regional competitiveness,” he said.

Once the natural gas plant is commissioned, Rainforest will transfer the 500kW solar system from Kingston to Montego Bay. This will essentially create a 800kW solar panel system at that location, which is Rainforest’s main operating base. Miles said it would result in the Montego Bay location being self-sufficient during the daytime on sunny days, but would still require power supplies from the national grid at night-time.

Rainforest is one of the largest distributors of seafood and fish products in the Caribbean. The company carries over 500 types of fish and shellfish sourced from suppliers in and outside Jamaica.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com