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

INDEPTH online Sunday, 16 October 2016, 10:24 Last update: about 5 years ago

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', a new production by The Malta Independent.

Interviewed by TMI's Content Director, Pierre Portelli, 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 FSU (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, the 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.

Mrs 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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