New power sta­tion will be op­er­a­tional three weeks af­ter per­mit is is­sued

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - Gabriel Schem­bri

Elec­tro­gas, the com­pany in charge of set­ting up the new gas power sta­tion is all set to go as it is only wait­ing for the nec­es­sary per­mits from the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties be­fore it can be­come fully op­er­a­tional.

This was con­firmed by en­gi­neer Cather­ine Halpin, Com­mer­cial Direc­tor at Elec­tro­gas Malta who was the first guest of the new on­line pro­gramme IN­DEPTH.

In­ter­viewed by TMI’s Con­tent Direc­tor, Pierre Portelli, for the new TMI on­line pro­gramme called IN­DEPTH, Mrs Halpin ex­plained that the power sta­tion can be­come op­er­a­tional as from three weeks af­ter the nec­es­sary per­mits are is­sued by the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

She ex­plained that the con­struc­tion is ready, but more tests on the Float­ing Stor­age Unit need to be con­ducted.

She would not be drawn to an­swer whether such a huge op­er­a­tion could be built in two years as promised by Joseph Muscat be­fore the 2013 elec­tion. In fact, govern­ment lost one dead­line af­ter another be­fore de­liv­er­ing on this project nearly two years late.

The idea of a new gas-fired power sta­tion was pre­sented to the elec­torate as the only means by which elec­tric­ity bills could be re­duced but the govern­ment man­aged to give a 25% re­duc­tion on elec­tric­ity bills ir­re­spec­tive of the new power sta­tion. It did so by us­ing the in­ter­con­nec­tor and the BWSC power sta­tion, both in­vest­ments made un­der the pre­vi­ous PN ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Ms Halpin has worked on gas tur­bine projects be­fore and when pressed to re­as­sure the pub­lic of the LNG’s safety, she in­sists that the in­dus­try has a very good safety track record.

“There have been over 32,000 LNG de­liv­er­ies in the past 50 years with no ma­jor in­ci­dents. These tankers are used all over the world and this is an in­dus­try with all the nec­es­sary ex­pe­ri­ence in keep­ing things safe. The tanker it­self is de­signed to keep stor­age safe even in stormy weather.”

Pressed to elab­o­rate on the com­pany’s ex­pe­ri­ence in han­dling such big op­er­a­tions, Mrs Halpin ex­plained that the com­pany share­hold­ers are very ex­pe­ri­enced with ex­tremely good safety record.

Asked if she feels com­fort­able with this so­lu­tion and whether she would have pre­ferred to have the unit far away from a res­i­den­tial town, the en­gi­neer said that a lot of LNG projects around the world are op­er­at­ing very close to towns.

Although she did not give one spe­cific ex­am­ple of such, she said there are sim­i­lar op­er­a­tional cases in Amer­ica. She said that float­ing stor­age units are good be­cause they do not take pre­cious land.

“This is a good so­lu­tion for Malta. Stor­ing LNG on land does not nec­es­sar­ily make things safe. This is just another way of hold­ing it. FSUs are per­fectly safe. They are con­structed to carry LNG in a storm.”

Ac­cord­ing to Mrs Halpin, some six or eight car­gos will be com­ing to Malta to re­fill the tanker ev­ery year and ev­ery ship which will come, will un­dergo a full safety check list.

In the case of a strong storm, the tanker will be moved into a ‘spread or storm po­si­tion’, some 70 me­tres away from the jetty.

Asked about what would hap­pen to the pro­vi­sion of gas once the tanker is forced to move, she said the de­ci­sion to move the ship would be taken be­fore the storm ar­rives and the cap­tain will let the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties know in ad­vance.

On the health and safety re­port which has, so far, never seen the light of day, the en­gi­neer said that she her­self was in­volved in the re­port and, while not di­vulging what the re­port found, re­as­sured that the re­sults are not alarm­ing as it was feared.

There are no plans to have a small stor­age unit on land, she added.

On the co­ex­is­tence with the peo­ple of Marsaxlokk, who are forced to carry the bur­den, Mrs Halpin said that as part of the Pri­vate Pub­lic Part­ner­ship, the com­pany will be meet­ing with the part­ners in­volved. She claimed that there was con­sul­ta­tion be­fore the de­vel­op­ment but fur­ther con­sul­ta­tion will be an­nounced be­fore the op­er­a­tion starts.

The tanker, Ar­mada LNG Mediter­rana, sailed into Marsaxlokk bay on Mon­day. Min­is­ter with­out port­fo­lio Kon­rad Mizzi said that this was a “his­toric event” that marked the end of use of Heavy Fuel Oil, point­ing out that Malta is among the last EU coun­tries to still make use of the fuel.

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