Gas pipeline designed to supply Sicily in the future

Studies show that a new terminal at Delimara where a gas pipeline from Sicily will land, requires 8,000sq.m of land reclamation and a new access road • Pipeline will replace floating LNG tanker

A photomontage of the terminal at Delimara where the gas pipeline will land
A photomontage of the terminal at Delimara where the gas pipeline will land

A proposed 159km gas pipeline linking Malta to Gela in Sicily has been designed to carry a gas supply either way.

The pipeline will operate in a bidirectional mode and in the future, can be used to supply gas from Malta to Italy, the final Environment Impact Statement for the project reveals.

The pipeline will enable Malta to import natural gas for use in the power stations, replacing the liquefied natural gas storage tanker berthed inside Marsaxlokk Bay.

The pipeline shall will have an estimated capacity of approximately 1.2 billion cubic meters per year and a guaranteed flow of 141,000 Sm3/hour.

The pipeline will land at a new terminal in Delimara, which will require an additional area of 8,000sq.m to be reclaimed from the sea.

This will also include a 4,840sq.m revetment, a sloping structure, to minimise wave damage.

The Environmental Resources Authority will discuss the project in a board meeting next Friday during which the authority is expected to approve an internal memo recommending the proposed  works on the “already disturbed coast” as long as “stringent mitigation measures and pre-emptive safeguards,” are enforced.

The project will still require the approval of the Planning Authority Board. 

The sea-works are expected to have a negative impact on protected posedonia meadows and other sea grasses. 

The project will require a new access road to be constructed to connect the existing Delimara power stations to the new gas terminal. The proposed 320m long access road will cause the most significant ecological impacts because rock clearing and trimming works will give rise to the destruction of endemic communities of the Maltese salt tree which cover the existing cliff face. 

The removal of the gas tanker is considered as the major beneficial impact of the project which is also expected to improve Malta’s security of gas supply. 

The EIA studies predate the European Commission’s refusal to fund the gas pipeline due to its impact on climate change.

No reference to hydrogen

Brussels has in the meantime agreed to consider Malta’s plans for a hydrogen-ready gas pipeline. The possibility of retrofitting of existing power stations to work on hydrogen is mentioned in the recently published national plan to reduce carbon emissions.

The EIA does not refer to hydrogen but to the possible use of biomethane produced from biomass generated from plant material which is described as a “renewable” source.  

The EIA refers to discussions between the relevant Maltese and Italian authorities to encourage the conversion of the supply from non-renewable natural gas to a renewable gas such as biomethane. According to the EIA such an agreement would drive both countries towards reducing their national carbon footprints.