The United States will help Jamaica with fuel diversification and embrace liquefied natural gas (LNG) for its energy needs, and will also back plans for the island nation to become a base for delivering LNG to the rest of the Caribbean region.

On Thursday, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz signed an agreement with Jamaica’s energy minister, Phillip Paulwell, at the U.S.-CARICOM summit in Mona, Jamaica.

“We believe that Jamaica could be a part of [an LNG export] hub because of our geographic location, in proximity to places like Haiti and other areas in the western Caribbean,” Paulwell said, according to video of the summit provided by the government’s Jamaica Information Service (JIS). “After these meetings, we are hoping to zero in on some of the specificity.”

Moniz countered that DOE would help facilitate discussions between Jamaica and the Inter-American Development Bank, which provides financial and technical support to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. He also suggested talks with the bank’s president, Luis Alberto Moreno.

“We are happy to [facilitate the discussions],” Moniz said on JIS. “We think it’s good for the Western Hemisphere and certainly good for the Caribbean in terms of energy security, environmental impact and economic development.”

Rick Smead, managing director of advisory services for RBN Energy LLC, said Jamaica had been expected to become a major trading center for LNG, with larger tankers coming in to offload onto smaller barges and tankers for shorter trips to the different islands.

“But until Secretary Moniz’s visit, I didn’t know how close we were to supporting that or doing anything to try to foster it,” Smead told NGI on Friday.

“One of the rapidly evolving dynamics of U.S. gas abundance, and especially our LNG export capability, is that in addition to the large volume [of international cargoes bound] for Europe and Asia, there should be a lot of opportunities for smaller cargoes to taxi all over the place in the Caribbean. The technology of both floating liquefaction and especially floating regasification along the lines of accelerates stuff, frees up the ability to go to a lot of these smaller markets without needing to build a giant regasification facility.

“There’s been a proliferation of smaller LNG transportation and regasification technologies all over the Caribbean, in large part in anticipation of there being a lot more supply available.”

Smead predicted that the U.S. will eventually become the world’s second or third largest exporter of LNG, with the Caribbean becoming a significant importer.

“The Caribbean [is] a very gas hungry market,” Smead said. “Being very close to the U.S. Gulf Coast, where four out of our five operational LNG export facilities that are close to getting done will be [located], it seems pretty obvious that there would be a lot of vitality to that market.”

Last month, American LNG Marketing LLC was granted DOE authorization to export up to 60,000 tonnes per annum of containerized LNG from Florida, mostly to free trade agreement (FTA) countries in the Caribbean and Central America (see Daily GPI, March 23).

In 2014, Carib Energy LLC, a subsidiary of Crowley Maritime Corp., won a multi-year contract to export containerized LNG produced in the U.S. to an undisclosed pharmaceutical company in Puerto Rico (see Daily GPI, Nov. 17, 2014). That followed DOE approval for Carib and Sempra Energy’s Cameron LNG project to export domestically-produced LNG. Both facilities are in Louisiana, on the Gulf Coast (see Daily GPI, Sept. 10, 2014).

The U.S. Energy Administration has also touted the benefits of LNG exports to U.S. island states and territories (see Daily GPI, Aug. 19, 2014).