Updated | Permit applications for Malta-Sicily gas pipeline submitted, works expected in 2021

Construction tenders for a gas pipeline to replace the LNG tanker to be issued by 2020 - 2021

Energy Minister Joe Mizzi and energy agency CEP Daniel Azzopardi (right)
Energy Minister Joe Mizzi and energy agency CEP Daniel Azzopardi (right)

The Maltese government has electronically submitted its permit applications with the Planning Authority in Malta, and the Economic Development Ministry in Italy, for the construction of a gas pipeline that will connect the island to Sicily, in Italy.

A scoping report, which includes the basic design of the project, will be submitted with the application. This will allow authorities to draft the terms of reference for the necessary permitting studies, that will include an environmental and social impact assessment.

The announcement was made by Energy Minister Joe Mizzi and Daniel Azzopardi, CEO at the Energy and Water Agency.

Addressing a press conference at the energy ministry this morning, Mizzi said that the gas pipeline would replace the LNG tanker, currently berthed at Delimara.

"The application process should not take more than three and a half years, after which the government will issue tenders for construction," Mizzi said.

He went on to add that an environment impact study will be launched next year, following which the government will order a marine survey. The studies are expected to cost €8 million and will be funded by the European Union.

The gas pipeline, 159km long, currently has a price tag of €320 million and should take 24 to 36 months to commission and construct and commission. The government's commissioning target is 2024.

Once commissioned, the pipeline will replace the temporary FSU vessel.

The government will set up a new public company - a transmission system operator - whose role will be to manage the project.

The pipeline’s landing point will be in Gela described by the government as the optimal point to ensure security of supply. Gela is also connected to the Greenstream pipeline, which runs from Mellitah in Libya.

The project enjoys EU funding, a result of the fact that the implementation of the gas pipeline as considered a EU project of common interest. The pipeline will connect Malta to the European Natural Gas Network, and it is viewed as essential for the EU to implement a well connected energy network.

For the EU, a well-connected network is a pre-condition for a genuinely functioning internal energy market.

The pipeline project has already benefited from some €1 million in EU funds, spent on studies required to mature the project to the current stage.

Once constructed, the pipeline will be capable of delivering 2 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year for fuelling the power plants in Delimara, and other future emerging markets.

What’s next?

Environmental studies (EIAs) will start in mid-2018 following a public call for tenders and completed in 2019. A marine survey of the offshore route will also be conducted, which will be followed by the front-end engineering design study required for the preparation of a tender for the construction and laying of the pipeline.

The government is currently in the process of applying for EU funding for all the above studies – costing some €8 million.

Permits are expected to be obtained by latest 2020 and the tender for works is planned to be published 2020-2021.

Following the award of the works contract, construction and commissioning is expected to take 24-36 months with earliest commercial operation in 2024.

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