Study: Trinidad has edge over other regions for large-scale glass production
An independently-conducted feasibility study for the establishment of a Solar Industrial Park in Trinidad found the country to be cost-competitive against any source of glass currently imported into Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States.
The study was undertaken to explore the possibility of a dedicated solar-, silicon- and glass-focused manufacturing cluster for Trinidad. The independent research group included The Float Glass Consortium (UK), Viridis.IQ (Germany) and SiTek Ltd (T&T). The study found that Trinidad offers a very strong combination of unique advantages over more obvious potential sites for large-scale glass manufacture.
Energy-intensive silicon and glass plant feasibility for T&T found such plants would place in the top quartile for low costs. Said the Float Glass Consortium about the study, “FGC has never encountered a location so well-suited for glass manufacture as Trinidad, with good access to quality materials, industrial gasses, very low-cost energy, sites with good access to port and infrastructure and a qualified workforce.”
As a result of the study, Trinidad is taking several steps to support the local development of a dedicated solar energy-focused manufacturing cluster. The country is seeking investors for the independent co-located plants in the cluster. The plants will produce polysilicon (PolySi), metallurgical silicon (MGSi), photovoltaics and float glass.
The optimal site for the solar cluster manufacturing park has been identified as 250 hectares of land in Point Lisas. The area is already the site of Trinidad's robust petrochemical and LNG industries. Next to Point Lisas Port, it offers access to existing U.S. and European markets, as well as high-potential emerging markets in Latin America and the rest of the Caribbean. The study identified “(Point) Lisas’ industrial infrastructure, industrial gas and chemicals, favourable geotechnical conditions and good intertie to the electrical grid and utilities” as advantages of the site. No environmental concerns were associated with the proposed plants.
Detailed analysis by the research group identified a number of major opportunities for a large glass manufacturer sited in Trinidad:
In 2012, South America imported more than 1 million tons of glass. Likewise, Latin America and the Caribbean import 25 percent of their glass needs. Projections are that Latin America will require “the importation of 300 to 600 ktpy of glass for the foreseeable future.” Trinidad is cost-competitive and well-positioned geographically to access this huge market.
A Trinidad plant could develop a coated glass market using coatings suited for the region and priced below the alternatives. Coated glass can help lower energy costs and meet the demand for energy-efficient materials on the other Caribbean islands. U.S. products are not well-suited for the Caribbean climate and are too expensive for the region’s consumers.
Producing ultra-pure glass for solar-PV modules provides an important value-added opportunity for the float glass plant in the proposed cluster. The feasibility study found that low-iron (low-Fe) glass for solar-PV applications can be produced in Trinidad “at potentially the lowest cost in the world using some of the highest-quality raw materials. A glass plant in Trinidad would also be competitively positioned to supply PV glass to solar-PV module plants along the U.S. Eastern seaboard.”
Available Supply Chain
Multiple potential suppliers were identified for each component in various glass products. Pricing and logistics costs were fully explored. Excellent-quality glass sand, soda ash, dolomite and limestone have been identified from reputable suppliers. Close proximity to sources of needed raw materials will support the plant’s cost-competitiveness. Post-construction negotiated materials pricing is likely to be 5 to 10 percent less than the pricing in the feasibility study.
The Point Lisas site is key for a low-cost supply chain. The proposed site’s access to the port, power, natural gas and water utilities are key factors. Trinidad’s low gas price has significantly reduced the cost of furnace fuel and industrial gases. Calculations of all proposed cluster plants’ projected unit costs employed standard rates for the area.
Trinidad can provide a sizeable workforce with the skill sets required for construction and operation of industrial plants, thanks largely to existing industries in Point Lisas. Trinidad’s tertiary and vocational training institutions produce skilled and semi-skilled trades and degreed professionals. These trained workers can handle manufacturing automation processes and supervise plant operations. T&T training institutions have worked closely with plants in the past to provide relevant training and can develop customised programs to meet the needs of the proposed manufacturing cluster.
Fiscal packages will be available to help reduce risk and improve commercial viability for investors in the solar park manufacturing cluster. Recommendations are under consideration for a basic investment package plus a glass plant-specific package, including financial support and discounted gas costs. Interested investors can contact InvesTT for details.