Decision on power station scheduled for 24 March

Case officer recommends approval

The government’s plans for a gas-fired power station are set to be approved eight months after the presentation of an application to the Malta Environment and Planning Authority – which took place in July of last year – and three months after the Environment Impact Assessment was issued for public consultation.

The Planning Directorate is calling on the Malta Environmental and Planning Authority board to approve the project, as it is considered to be in line with the National Energy Policy goals of switching generation to natural gas and to combat energy poverty.

Three MEPA board members will not be able to participate in the meeting. While Paul Apap Bologna will not participate due to his shareholding in the Electro Gas consortium, marine biologist Victor Axiaq and archaeologist Timothy Gambin are excluded because of their engagement as consultants in the preparation of the EIA.

Case officer Michelle Piccinino is recommending the approval of the application which includes a 30-metre high, 285-metre long and 44-metre wide storage vessel known as a Floating Storage Unit anchored to an eight-metre high jetty platform.

It also includes three new 75-metre high and three 30-metre high chimneys.

Gas tankers will supply the FSU eight to 12 times a year. According to the report, the Transport Authority has concluded that there is sufficient room within the port for these operations.

The report fails to point the exact distance between the gas storage vessel and the existing power station, but states that it will be located at “the farthest possible distance from the plant”.

Offshore relocation excluded

The report reveals that the option of locating both the regasification plant and the storage vessel 12 km offshore was discarded because the mooring of this vessel outside Marsaxlokk Bay would represent an obstacle to shipping. It also warns that severe sea situations outside Marsaxlokk Bay would reduce the ability of the vessel to receive fuel from supply carriers and thus threaten the stability of supply.

A FSU at Hofra Z-Zghira, 1 km away from shore, was also considered, but the report refers to the high traffic of vessels in this area.

While excluding the offshore location favoured by 91% of Marsaxlokk residents interviewed in the social impact assessment, the case officer claims that this option is not being completely set aside. The report claims that technological developments could make the offshore option a viable one in the future.

It also claims that the government still actively pursuing the possibility of having a gas pipeline link to mainland.  In such cases, the FSU can be shipped away to make way for the long-term solution.

OHSA report identifies “safe” zone

The case officer report refers to the conclusions of a report by Dr George Papadakis, commissioned by the Occupational Health and Safety Authority, which identifies three zones where the development of the energy facilities will not pose a danger to neighbouring residences and other developments.

The risk of an accident in first zone can occur between once in 100,000 years and once every 200,000 years. In another zone the risk of an accident occurring is between once in 200,000 years and once in a million years. Beyond the contours of this zone the risk falls to less than once in a million years.

But the same report advices against locating hospitals, homes for elderly and dense development within the contours of these three zones.

On the other hand, the OHSA report advises against the development of energy facilities in an area where an accident is likely to occur once in every 10,000 years or more.

The report assessed the risks associated with the worst-case scenarios of pool fires, flash fires and vapour cloud explosions.

Visual intrusion

The case officer acknowledges the visual intrusion resulting from the presence of the FSU unit but notes that this development can be reversed if the vessel is shipped away. 

The Environmental Protection Directorate described the impact is significant and difficult to eliminate.

The EPD’s report also states that since any future proposals to relocate the gas storage vessel further offshore were not included in current plans, new studies will be required.

The removal of the highest chimney resulting from the decommissioning of the oldest power station on site is considered as an improvement.

I don't want this tanker at M'xlokk; it is unsightly and if it explodes, the petrol tanks(in the middle of the B'Zebbuga village!!!) will also explode and so will the gas tanks (safe!!) next to the southern flank of B'zebbuga! So I'll rather have high electricity bills as voted 'bil-qalb' by Gonzi, and live the rest of my life in poverty,deprivation and squalor! Halluna nghixu please!
Yahoo! Let us move forward and leave all the electricity pain'made at Pieta' behind.
I still haven't understood why unloading and storing the gas at the oiltanking facilities in the freeport (just inside the outer pier) wouldn't be safer and less damaging to the environment - both ecologically and aesthetically.
Ma tantx nifhem fl-inginerija, imma nitfa sens komun ghandi.Kieku it-tankijiet tal-gas jitpoggew fil-qiegh tal-Bahar u jitghattew bil-konkrete biex jintrabtu mal-qiegh, l-incidenza ta' disastru tispicca ghax ikun hemm il-bahar x' jitfi n-nar li jista' jiehu u ikun bhal cushen ghal kull spluzzjoni.