EU to subsidise 50% of studies in Malta-Sicily gas pipeline project

The European Commission has voted €3.8 million to fund half the costs projected for essential studies in the gas pipeline project linking Malta to Sicily

Energy Minister Joe Mizzi announced new EU subsidy set to cover half the costs for studies in Malta-Sicily pipeline project
Energy Minister Joe Mizzi announced new EU subsidy set to cover half the costs for studies in Malta-Sicily pipeline project

The European Union will provide €3.8 million, or 50% of costs, for studies necessary ahead of the development of the gas pipeline linking Malta with Sicily, Energy Minister Joe Mizzi said on Friday morning.

Mizzi, who was addressing a press conference to give details about the studies, said that this second stage in the project was crucial and will include environmental impact assessments in Malta and Italy.

Other studies would also identify and analyse the 150km route to be followed on the seabed as well as determining the entire infrastructure necessary for the project's completion.

Construction on the €322 million pipeline is expected to start in 2020, to ultimately replace the floating gas tanker in Marsaxlokk Bay currently providing liquefied natural gas to the Delimara power stations.

Mizzi criticised an article published in MaltaToday citing a risk-assessment report, which called for further research for the identification of military equipment and more importantly unexploded bombs along the project’s footprint emanating from WW2 operations.

“Military installations and especially UXOs or prohibited areas could affect the project’s footprint, budget and safety. In other words, the design of the project should be compatible with military plans,” the risk assessment report said.

The report calls for the identification of so called UXO areas (areas where unexploded ordnance is likely to exist) that need to be avoided.

But Mizzi appeared to have misunderstood the article. "Bombs did not fall only around Malta, so it must have have been obvious that the marine survey would look out for such items," he said, adding that he could not understand "this attempt to try and instill some new element in the discussion", calling it amateurish.

Malta's application in this second phase was rated the best by the European Commission from among 26 gas and electricity applications submitted. In all, 17 applications were approved, nine related to gas supply and eight related to electricity.

The EU will provide its share of funding through the Connecting Europe Facilities Fund.

The government expects to apply for funds again in 2019-2020.

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