Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ)

Securing JamaicaÔÇÖs future

It was in 1975, two years after the members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) proclaimed an oil embargo sparking a five month oil crisis, that the concept of a State Energy Corporation was first mooted within Jamaica. Four years later in June 1979 the government of the country established the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), while the Petroleum Act of 1979 established it as a statutory corporation with the exclusive right to explore for oil, develop Jamaica’s petroleum resources, negotiate import contracts and enter all stages of the petroleum industry.

Exploration activities in Jamaica date back to the mid-1955s. It was between 1955 and 1973 that the first of two exploration phases were conducted across the country by private companies, while the second between 1978 and 1982 was conducted by the PCJ. During the first phase a total of seven exploratory wells were drilled, one offshore and six onshore, how it was with the formation of the PCJ that momentum picked up dramatically with an additional three onshore wells and one offshore well being drilled during 1980 and 1981.

Subsequent advances in geological and geophysical sciences and technologies in more recent time have allowed the PCJ to view Jamaica’s potential through a fresh pair of eyes. Indeed, recent studies and tests have shown that structures within the offshore Walton Basin is likely to contain significant economic quantities of hydrocarbons, while other blocks located on the western, eastern and south eastern sides of the nation may also possess similar resources.

Today the PCJ Group includes the subsidiaries Petrojam Limited, which operates the group’s oil refinery, Petrojam Ethanol Limited, the marking and retailing company Petcom Limited, Jamaica Aircraft Refuelling Services and Wigton Windfarm Limited.


As the name of the last subsidiary suggests, the PCJ’s mandate was expanded back in 1995 to develop indigenous renewable energy resources with the aim of preventing adverse effects on the environment and to assist the government in achieving the aims set out in the Jamaica Energy Sector Policy.

In its role the PCJ is committed to assisting in reducing the nation’s heavy dependence on imported petroleum in order to meet its energy requirements. In order to achieve this the group seeks to diversify Jamaica’s energy portfolio and has undertaken numerous initiatives since its formation. In addition to oil and gas exploration these initiatives include extensive studies into the economic viability of peat for fuel, the construction of hydropower plants, solar energy, biomass and wind energy projects, and examining the potential of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC).

Jamaica possesses one of the highest energy intensity rates in Latin America and the Caribbean, with the country being almost totally dependent upon imported oil, which accounts for over 90 percent of its total energy use. Between the years of 1998 and 2006 the cost of imported oil to Jamaica rose astronomically from $334 million to approximately $1.84 billion, a scenario that unquestionably poses a threat to its long term economic stability. It comes as no surprise therefore that it was deemed necessary to pursue greater energy efficiency and conservation opportunities in the residential, commercial, industrial and public sectors of the economy.

Over the last five years the PCJ has been tasked with addressing these pressing issues. Its strategy has been to implement energy audit recommendations in entities such as hospitals and schools for which energy audits have been done, to carry out energy audits in other entities such as the National Water Commission, to continue and enhance the public education programme on energy efficiency and conservation, and to carry out energy audits in a sample of hotels and encourage hotel owners to implement energy efficiency measures.

For its part the PCJ also remains fully committed to its responsibilities towards sustainable development, a commitment it demonstrates via several means. The first of these is through communication and engagement, whereby the PCJ aims at all times to provide its internal and external clients with timely, accurate, clear objectives and complete information about its policies, programmes, project and objectives.

Public education, particularly when it comes to matters of energy, is always a priority for the group and it achieves this through various media formats, exhibition, workshops, seminars and other direct face-to-face meetings. Fundamental in its themes of communication are the promoting of the culture of energy efficiency and conservation, and educating people in the use and benefits of renewable and alternative energies.

Social responsible, safety and occupational health and environmental awareness are also core pillars of the PCJ. Fully aware of its responsibilities, it plays a significant role in community development through the awarding of scholarships, the promotion of science and technology, its contributions to charities and its support of children’s homes and health institutions.

The group’s Safety, Health and Environmental Management System is based on the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s Process Safety Management System and of the Jamaica’s National Environment and Planning Agency. The system has policies and procedures, which include the control of emergency planning and response, safe working practices and Industrial Hygiene Management and natural resources protection.

The latter policy also ties in with the PCJ’s principles of environmental sustainability. Programs undertaken by the group in the past include the upgrading the Petrojam Refinery to 50,000 barrels per day to include environmental improvements such as lowering the sulphur petroleum fuels and the carbon dioxide emissions from the operations and phasing out Methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) in gasoline to the more environmental friendly ethanol enhancer.

The PCJ continues to be instrumental in not only sponsoring but also hosting various conferences and seminars that have helped to encourage dialogue among tertiary institutions, public and private bodies and the general public. These meetings are designed to increase the awareness of the importance of developing sustainable solutions to address Jamaica’s energy situation. The PCJ has also been represented on several committees formed to provide support to national and regional growth and development. Lastly, the PCJ has made invaluable contributions to the development of Jamaica’s Energy Green Paper, 2006-2020, a paper that sets out the plan for a brighter, clean future for the Caribbean island.

Written by Will Daynes, research by David Brogan