Gas pipeline needs 8,000 square metres in land reclamation

The Malta-Sicily gas pipeline will require a new terminal plant on 8,000 square metres of reclaimed sea bed, an environmental impact assessment reveals

The new terminal station will be constructed within the existing Delimara power station to have limited visual impact
The new terminal station will be constructed within the existing Delimara power station to have limited visual impact

The Malta-Sicily gas pipeline will require a new terminal plant on 8,000 square metres of reclaimed sea bed, an environmental impact assessment reveals.

The project, which is expected to improve Malta’s energy security, foresees the construction of a gas pipeline between Delimara, Malta and Gela in Sicily, together with a terminal station and land reclamation at Delimara power station and an onshore tunnel across the Delimara peninsula.

The new terminal station will be constructed within the existing Delimara power station to have limited visual impact.

Two beneficial impacts of the project are the increase in security of the natural gas supply when compared to the existing FSU and regasification system; and the reduction in various operational risks and hazards due to the lower vulnerability of the pipeline when compared to the existing system.

The pipeline will be 158km long between Delimara (Malta) and Gela (Sicily) of which 152km will be under the sea.

Once implemented, the gas pipeline would provide a more reliable source to supply natural gas to Malta, eliminating the need for the Floating Storage Unit (FSU) recently installed to supply natural gas to the diesel engine plant and the new gas turbines at Delimara. The project is expected to deliver cheaper gas prices.

The new terminal facility and will be located on the southern-most edge of the site, with the regasification plant boundary wall to the north.

The terminal station will house a range of equipment required for the operation and maintenance of the pipeline.

In order to accommodate the additional structures, an area of 8,000 sq.m will need to be reclaimed. This reclaimed land will be used for the terminal plant (6,855 sq.m) and a new breakwater (4,840 sq.m) to shelter the new plant from incoming waves. The rock protection area will have a perimeter of about 230m and a thickness of around 28m.

The EIA warns that excavation works and vibrations may precondition adjacent coastal cliffs to failure, particularly for the Middle Globigerina Limestone rock layer, which quickly deteriorates with weathering. This impact is described as “direct, permanent and will have a local extent, and is considered of major significance”.

The construction of the road and new terminal plant will also require excavation of soil and rocks.

The gas pipeline will cross underground the Delimara peninsula between the terminal plant and the seaward side along the east coast.

This will be done through a micro-tunnelling borehole which will surface at around 42m below sea level about 600m offshore.

The pipeline will continue its pathway underwater until it reaches the shores of Gela.

During the construction phase, likely onshore impacts include bedrock collapse from micro-tunnelling and destabilisation of terrain from cliff works, both of which cause permanent impacts of major significance.

Mitigation measures being propose include the stabilisation of the coastal cliff face with steel mesh and shot-creting soon after cliff works are completed.

Impact on climate change

The type of gas which is supplied through the pipeline during pipeline operation will determine the climate change impacts from its incineration at the power station.

If the gas originates from natural and non-renewable sources, then the pipeline will retain more or less the same impacts as the existing scenario.

However, the pipeline can also supply renewable natural gas (RNG) such as biomethane, which is produced from biomass (generally plant material).

Since the carbon emitted by its combustion would have been recently absorbed from the atmosphere by the plant, the process is considered to be carbon neutral.

In this scenario, Malta’s national carbon footprint would be reduced.

More in Energy