BALANCE OF POWER

Panama 2015 | ENERGY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ricaurte “Catín" Vásquez, CEO for Central America and the Caribbean at General Electric (GE), on emerging demand segments, modernizing the power grid, and the potential of LNG.

 Ricaurte “Catín” Vásquez
BIOGRAPHY
Ricaurte “Catín” Vásquez joined GE mid-2008 as CEO for Central America & The Caribbean. He was promoted in 2011 to the position of Vice President of Government Affairs & Public Policies for Latin America and in August 2013 promoted to Executive Director for GE’s Latin America Gas Vertical and by mid-2014 reassigned the Central America & the Caribbean region. He served as the Panamanian Minister of Finance in two occasions and was Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Autoridad del Canal de Panamá. He holds a BSc cum laudae from Villanova University, a Master’s in Economics from North Carolina State University, an MSc in Operations Research and Statistics, and a PhD from Renssealer Polytechnic Institute in Managerial Economics.

In light of the GE's presence in the Latam region, how would you assess the importance of Panama for the company's operations?

Panama has positioned itself, in recent years, as a key country in global economy thanks to its consolidation as a logistics hub, headquarters of multinational companies, international banking center, and has also captured direct foreign investment and projects of significance, such as the Panama Canal expansion. As a consequence, Panama has dove tailed with GE as the perfect location to lead and coordinate the Central America and Caribbean region, an area with huge potential for all our businesses.

In which specific areas do you report an increasing need for your products and services?

In general, the countries of Central America and the Caribbean are at a key moment in their development as nations, looking to take a quality leap in industries such oil and gas, healthcare, energy, water treatment, transportation, or lighting, in a way that decisions will lead to immediate and positive impact in every citizen's life. In this environment, GE supports sound government policies and could become a world-class partner in many areas for the betterment of the quality of life of its citizens. With appropriate solutions for the national needs, local and regional capacity to develop projects, particularly those involving public-private participation. GE's with more than 130 years of research and technological solutions development becomes the partner of choice for many initiatives.

The Panamanian Government is currently working to modernize the national power grid. What specific solutions does GE offer for the modernization and implementation of the national grid?

We develop solutions made for the different needs that may exist, for example: GE Oil and Gas is world leader in advanced technology equipment and services for all segments of the oil and gas industry, from exploration and production to downstream. GE Power and Water provides a broad array of power generation, energy delivery, and water process technologies to solve global challenges. Power & Water works in several areas of the energy industry, including wind and solar, biogas, and alternative fuels. Its business solutions include aero derivative gas turbines and heavy-duty gas turbines, nuclear energy, steam turbines and generators and renewable energy. On the other hand, GE Energy Management designs technology solutions for the transmission, distribution, management, conversion, and optimization of electrical power across multiple energy-intensive industries through its four business lines: digital energy, industrial solutions, power conversion, and energy consulting.

The expanded Canal will be able to handle estimated 12 million metric tons of LNG on a yearly basis. How will GE support the development of business related to LNG in the country?

LNG is a resource with a wide range of possibilities for energy generation with the additional benefit that it is a cleaner and cost efficient fuel. LNG is greatly exploited in the region, so there is a significant amount for both private and public sectors to explore the possibility of moving and using this type of gas, mainly for power generation but there are other significant applications such as transportation and industrial operations. We could say that LNG is an option gaining its place initially in the regional energy matrix and it will be quite likely that it will find its ways into other areas. The Caribbean basin in particular has at its extremes significant sources of fuel: US Gulf and Trinidad and Tobago could lead toward transportation cost efficiencies, a prerequisite for its use in the region. Moreover, the regional LNG market will require a location to store, manage, and redistribute, and Panama with the expanded Canal and becoming an LNG route has the opportunity to become key player in the product supply chain—a natural for Panama thanks to its geographical location. Considering LNG as a possible fuel for power generation, it represents a lot to do in terms of management, transportation, and infrastructure for its proper commercialization and further processing of the final product in the region. Aware of this, we are closely working with local efforts from Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, who collaborate with equipment and technology to support LNG terminals and natural gas power generation.