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WAPA Breaks Ground for Propane Facilities

(Friday, March 28, 2014)

Brochure On Thursday, March 27 on St. Thomas, and Friday, March 28 on St. Croix, in momentous ceremonies before crowds of supporters and well-wishers, the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority broke ground on historic projects, not only for the Virgin Islands, but for the most part, the entire Caribbean region.  Thursday and Friday’s ceremonies signified that the construction of the Authority’s Propane Facilities, at the Randolph Harley and Estate Richmond Power Plants, are now officially on the way.

While WAPA has several projects slated to come on board shortly, one of the most important initiatives this year will be the switch from fuel oil to liquefied petroleum gas (propane) for power generation. In July 2013, the Authority entered into an agreement with Vitol, one of the world’s largest independent physical traders of oil and natural gas products, to supply propane for power generation in the territory. 

Both WAPA Executive Director Hugo V. Hodge, Jr. and Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr., in their remarks at Thursday’s groundbreaking, spoke of the admirable partnership with WAPA and Vitol. “Vitol has proven to be an excellent partner on this project,” said Hodge. “To date, the company has committed approximately 55% of the total project cost, which is estimated at $91 million.”  Governor de Jongh said, “The beauty of the partnership is that WAPA has not had to utilize any funds for the propane conversion.”  In the turnkey master agreement with Vitol Virgin Islands Corporation, Vitol would provide all up-front capital costs to complete the conversion project including infrastructure design, construction, and turbine con-version.  The capital costs for the terminals will be amortized over a seven year period with a prepay option in year five, after which WAPA will wholly own the new facilities to be transferred from Vitol for one dollar.

Juanita Young, Vice Chair of the Authority’s Governing Board, spoke highly of the WAPA employees for their hard work and contribution in bringing this project to where it is today.  On behalf of the other board members, Young noted the excitement of the board when they were finally able to vote on a measure that would bring great relief to the ratepayers of the territory.

STT Propane Groundbreaking Project event

Joining Hodge, Governor de Jongh and Young to formally break ground on Thursday for the St. Thomas facility were board members Donald Francois, Commissioner Wayne Biggs, Director Karl Knight, WAPA Chief Financial Officer Julio Rhymer, Sr., WAPA Project Coordinators Coury Hodge, Thursday’s master of ceremonies, and Vernon Alexander, and Vitol Project Coordinator Richard Elliott.

Juanita Gardine Students-STX Propane Groundbreaking--3-28-14

Friday’s groundbreaking ceremony at the Estate Richmond Power Plant began with spectacular renditions of the National Anthem and the Virgin Islands March by students from the Juanita Gardine Elementary School, one of WAPA’s adopted schools.  Several speakers noted the presence of the students to witness such an historic occasion and remarked that it may encourage future engineers.

In their remarks, the speakers all lauded the efforts of the Authority and Vitol, but words of teamwork were shared by most.  WAPA Board Chair Attorney Gerald T. Groner also noted his excitement as a board member, witnessing the Authority go from crisis, to plan, to effectuating the plan that will bring relief to ratepayers.  “WAPA is doing all of this, transforming the utility,” said Groner, “while at the same time continuing the day to day operations of the Authority.”  Delegate to Congress, Donna M. Christensen said ratepayers will soon be able to see relief, “because of an executive director, governing board and a team who all listened to the people of the Virgin Islands.”  Reminding everyone present about the journey from project inception to groundbreaking, Governor de Jongh ended his remarks on Friday by reminding those present that, “today we can all know that reality will take place on a vision that began a year ago.”

While dignitaries and the project team lined up to formally turn the soil on Friday, in an unusual move to involve the future of these islands, Hodge asked the students from Juanita Gardine to participate in the historic occasion by also turning the ground for this facility.

Environmental and community leaders throughout the territory have endorsed this move to a cleaner, less expensive fuel source and the Authority is proud and grateful for their support. With this switch to propane, WAPA will also advance a number of initiatives to modernize existing facilities, increase the use of efficient technologies, and make continued investments in the use of renewable energy sources. Executive Director Hodge thanked the men and women of WAPA for their continued commitment to the Authority, along with all consultants, and agencies who continue to support the Authority’s initiatives.

The propane conversion projects are targeted for completion by fourth quarter 2014.  For additional information about WAPA’s initiatives visit viwapa.vi or poweringvi.vi.