40 years, Petrojam Limited has effectively delivered on its mandate to supply the Jamaican market with the full range of petroleum products reliably and competitively.
The company was established in 1982, to provide Jamaicans with access to quality petroleum products for homes, businesses, transportation, aviation, electricity generation and more. Since then, Petrojam has contributed immensely to the development of Jamaica’s energy sector, achieving several critical milestones that have helped improve Jamaica’s energy and economic security.
Petrojam’s 40-year journey
Throughout the years, the company has expanded, evolved and innovated, driven by a keen focus on its core values — commitment to health, safety and the environment, integrity, excellence, team work and customer focus.
“Petrojam has grown remarkably over the past four decades, and continues to evolve to serve Jamaica’s energy needs,” notes Petrojam General Manager Winston Watson. “Many Jamaicans don’t actively consider the issue of energy security, and that is partly because Petrojam has reliably served this country, meaning, citizens never have to worry if adequate petroleum products will be available at any given moment. There are so many things that people do not know about Petrojam; we are using the 40th anniversary as an opportunity to educate the public about the history and work of the organisation.”
Pointing to the company’s milestones throughout the years, the general manager said that such initiatives to improve supply reliability and grow it operations have helped to fuel Jamaica’s economy. He mentioned that in 1986, just four years after its inception, Petrojam Ethanol Limited was established (by Petrojam Limited) to export fuel-grade ethanol to the United States under the Caribbean Basin Economy Recovery Act 1983, which allowed duty-free access to the US market for most goods.
In 1989, the company set up operations in Belize, and in in 1996, commissioned a second industry loading rack in Freeport, St James, to better serve customers in western Jamaica.
In 1999, the company continued its growth trajectory by establishing the Jamaica Aircraft Refueling Services (JARS). This joint venture between Petrojam Limited and Air BP, one of the world’s largest suppliers of aviation fuels, was established to efficiently supply Jamaica’s airports with jet fuel.
Over the years, the company has also implemented significant safety and the environmental initiatives in keeping with changing industry standards, locally and globally. According to Watson, this is also in keeping with the organisation’s commitment to health and safety promotion and the protection and preservation of the environment.
“In the past years, we have also sought to provide more environmentally friendly fuels to the Jamaican market. In 2000, we phased out the use of lead in all gasoline products, and went a step further in 2009 to replace MTBE with ethanol as an octane enhancer,” stated the Petrojam general manager.
“In 2013, we took this commitment further by introducing ultra-low sulphur diesel, a cleaner burning fuel that is less harmful to the environment; and in 2020, implemented new specifications for very low sulphur heavy fuel oil. This was in full compliance with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) new regulations to lower the sulphur cap on marine fuels, reducing the global limit from 3.5 per cent to 0.50 per cent,” the Petrojam GM continued.
Watson credited the success of the Petrojam refinery throughout the past 40 years to the hard-working team of employees, past and present. “Petrojam’s ability to successfully deliver on its mandate to keep Jamaica supplied with the relevant petroleum products is all due to the dedication, sacrifice and commitment of its staff, who oftentimes go beyond the call of duty, to ensure that we never run the country out of fuel,” he states.
“We pride ourselves on this enviable record of ensuring interrupted fuel supply to the Jamaican market,” he added.
Creating strategies for long-term supply security for energy has always been a priority for Petrojam. Some of the entity’s efforts to advance Jamaica’s energy security include the commissioning of a new petroleum-testing laboratory in 2019, to ensure the availability of fuel that meets both local and international standards. The company also has strategically positioned storage facilities on and offshore, to ensure adequate reserve supply of crude and finished products.
Highlighting Petrojam’s importance to Jamaica’s energy security, chairman of the Petrojam Board of Directors, Wayne Chen, noted, “Petrojam’s ability to adequately serve the people of Jamaica, even during the most unstable periods of the pandemic, is a testament to its resilience. During this time, there were constant supply disruptions. The conflict in Ukraine further amplified this. Despite these challenges, Jamaica’s access to adequate petroleum products was never in question,” shared the chairman.
“It is my goal for the average Jamaican to understand the gravity of the work done at Petrojam and how much the country’s economy is affected by its success. As we look to the future, Petrojam’s success will depend heavily on its ability to move with the times and adapt. I am confident that this will be possible with an ongoing focus on safety, world-class training, and a dedicated team,” Chen added.
Like many other countries, Jamaica constantly grapples with the challenges presented by geopolitical events such as the novel coronavirus pandemic and the recent Russia-Ukraine war and its impact on the prices of petroleum and petroleum products. Such situations have helped to highlight the importance of Jamaica having an oil refinery and its importance to Jamaica’s energy security.
Although the much-needed upgrade of the refinery is not yet realised, Petrojam continues to explore other optimisation projects that align with its vision of achieving ‘Best-in-Class’ status by 2030.