The Malta Independent 18 April 2024, Thursday
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Continental shelf offers many opportunities for Malta, says Finance Minister

Wednesday, 24 May 2023, 15:49 Last update: about 12 months ago

Finance Minister Clyde Caruana said Tuesday that “the continental shelf upon which Malta sits can offer many opportunities that have so far been completely overlooked for the simple reason that we’ve always looked to develop the over-sea land, rather than the underwater land surrounding the country.”

Caruana was speaking in Parliament about the amendment of Bill 43, the Petroleum (Production) Bill whose objects and reasons are to make provision for the issue of licenses with respect to the prospection, exploration and production of petroleum with European Union obligations. 

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“Few realise that Malta’s continental shelf which extends between 12 and 25 miles beyond our borders, amounts to 70,000 square kilometres,” Caruana said. 

“It wasn’t the entirety of this region that was explored, but over large swathes, the government’s Continental Shelf Department,” which promotes investment for the exploration of Malta’s natural resources, “has rich information about the geophysical structure below the sea and about certain areas that may contain mineral resources.”

Since carbon is one of the main causes of climate change, this area might also be exploited for "carbon capture and storage." As technology advances in the next years, we will be able to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it underground, according to Caruana.

“Of course, we need to undertake all measures to ensure that this gas doesn’t then find some way of escaping,” he added.

The continental shelf upon which Malta sits can offer many opportunities that have so far been completely overlooked for the simple reason that we’ve always looked to develop the land that we have, rather than the underwater land surrounding the country, Caruana said.

Technology is advancing, and there are different niches being born in economies across the world, which enable Malta to take advantage of the seas which surround us, he concluded. 

PN MP Mark Anthony Sammut was largely in agreement when he said that “the continental shelf is one of the largest resources we have as a country, and we have yet to capitalize on its full potential.”

“I want to be clear that I believe that when it comes to finding sources of energy for the country, we should focus on renewable sources and, perhaps, hydrogen too, after tackling the problems that exist with our distribution network,” he said.

Sammut said since 70% of the energy in this country comes from natural gas, we will be dependent on this source for the next 25 or so years. Despite this, he said that we shouldn’t close the door to this venture, especially in light of the millions Malta is spending on the importation of this resource.

“When it comes to licensing the exploration and production of petroleum, this needs to be administered by an authority, and not by the whim of the Minister as is currently the case according to the act,” Sammut said. 

“I’m not inventing the wheel here,” he added, “as this is what happens in all other countries that issue licenses for these activities.”

We have an opportunity to capitalize on the modernization of the sector by introducing structures and authorities that bring it in life with other modern countries, and we’re currently missing out, Sammut concluded.

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