Dozens of reports and thousands of pages but no mention of fireworks
‘Probability of LNG tanker collision low, of tank rupture even lower’
Several reports related to the Delimara gas-fired power station project were published yesterday but in more than 15,000 pages there is only one mention of fireworks, which happens to be in a glossary.
The much awaited reports were published yesterday by the Environment and Resources Authority. They include risk assessment and maritime impact studies commissioned by Electrogas – the consortium behind the gas project.
Some of the reports go into great detail on the hazards that can affect the power plant – such as lighting strikes, earthquakes, soil subsidence, port operations, aircraft crashes and terrorism but festa fireworks in the vicinity were apparently not deemed to be dangerous. One of the reports mentions pyrotechnics as a source of ignition in its glossary but there is no further reference to fireworks in the other 300 or so pages.
Only last July four men were injured in a large fireworks explosion that took place not far from the power station. In 2014 this paper had tried to establish whether fireworks would be permitted after the construction of the power station but the ‘competent’ authorities all passed the buck without giving a clear answer.
Safety measures in place
The reports published yesterday also state that the Electrogas project features all major safety and prevention measures, such as Emergency Shut-Down Systems, Gas and Fire Detection Systems and Fire Fighting Systems. There are also emergency response
plans that cover different scenarios, ranging from a vehicle collision inside the power station compound to a large-scale release of gas. Some of the emergency protocols were drawn up with the authorities, including the Civil Protection Department.
The drills for some particular scenarios, which include incidents on the FSU and the jetty, a ship-to-ship collision, bomb threats and the discovery of an explosive device and a ‘breach of site security’ are confidential and the relevant parts have been omitted from the published reports.
Risk of collision next to impossible
Apart from the risk assessment studies, the ERA has also published the Nautical Risk Assessment Study, which says that the probability that that Floating Storage Unit and the LNG Carriers inside Marsaxlokk port are involved in a collision is very low and the probability that such a collision will lead to a gas tank rupture is even lower.
This particular report was drawn up by Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN).
The study focuses on different scenarios, including the possibility that the LNG carriers, which are expected to make 12 entries into the port each year to supply the Floating Storage Unit, are involved in a collision with another vessel or run aground inside the harbour.
It found that the total expected number of collisions when the LNG carrier is sailing is ‘once every 71,866 years. When next to a pilot boat and a restricted area (around the vessel) is imposed the total expected number of collisions will be once in 718,657 years.
The extensive study, which took many factors and considerations into account, also found that the probability that the LNG carrier becomes grounded (specifically in the area near the Freeport breakwater) is once every 92,081 years.
“The probability of loss of cargo due to grounding is assumed to be negligible.”
The probability that the LNG carrier is hit by another vessel while it is berthed alongside the FSU is also low. The probability will be lowered further if other ships are not allowed to visit the refuelling dolphin and the power station during this time (around 24 hours).
The probability that the FSU is hit by a passing vessel when not refuelling (when there is no LNG carrier alongside) is much higher – one in 264 years. The probability is larger for the fact that the FSU will be berthed near the power station all year round.
The MARIN study also looked at the possibility of a collision leading to a rupture in the LNG tanks of either the carrier or the FSU.
“Several collision scenarios may result in a hole in the outer shell of the LNG carrier but only 2 of the calculated collision cases lead to a hole in the inner shell.”
2,600 ships entered Marsaxlokk in 2013
“In spite of a larger collision probability compared to other considered scenarios, the probability of a hole in the cargo tank of the moored FSU or the moored LNG carrier can be considered as negligible, taking into account the traffic database and the assumptions of the speed of the other traffic. This is mainly due to the fact that the speed of other traffic in port is relatively low.”
The report states that some 2,600 ships entered Marsaxlokk in 2013 – including 1,920 container ships and 417 double hull tankers. It says that smaller fishing vessels would not do any significant damage if involved in a collision.
The study concludes that the probability of tank penetration after a collision with a sailing LNG carrier is low.
“It can, however, be reduced by imposing a speed limit in the area, or a restriction of vessels sailing in port while the LNG carrier is arriving or departing. The probability that the cargo tank of the LNG carrier is damaged due to grounding is negligible. The probability that the cargo tank of the FSU is penetrated is extremely low. The probability that the cargo tank of the LNG carrier is penetrated when being moored at or manoeuvring near the terminal is low compared to other projects.”
This is probably the first mention that ‘restrictions’ will have to be put in place during refuelling operations. The question of whether fishing boats will be affected had so far never been answered.
Reports too detailed, PN wants more time
Other reports published yesterday include a wave penetration study, a study on the manoeuvres expected by the LNG carrier in Marsaxlokk and a report on the FSU’s storm mooring system and how it reacts under different wave patterns. The latter lacks a clear conclusion on the suitability of the mooring system.
Other reports map out several hundred accident scenarios, such as small and large gas leaks on board the FSU or at the regasification unit and their possible consequences, which include flash fires, vapour cloud explosions and jet fires.
The different scenarios are classified according to the likelihood of them occurring but the data is very complex and difficult to read without professional guidance and a generous amount of time. It is safe to say, in fact, that most of the documents will hardly mean anything to the public unless simpler explanations are provided.
Because of this, Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil yesterday wrote to the chairman of the Environment and Resources Authority, Prof. Victor Asciak, requesting an extension to the public consultation period of 30 days.
The Opposition said the 30-day period which started yesterday is not enough to analyse the 15,000 pages published yesterday.
The extensive study, which took many factors and considerations into account, also found that the probability that the LNG carrier becomes grounded (specifically in the area near the Freeport breakwater) is once every 92,081 years. Other reports map out several hundred accident scenarios, such as small and large gas leaks on board the FSU or at the regasification unit and their possible consequences, which include flash fires, vapour cloud explosions and jet fires.