UK expert raises concerns in PL energy plan

The Nationalist Party this afternoon presented a UK gas and energy expert to give his views on Labour's energy proposals.

Finance Minister Tonio Fenech said Miles A Seaman, who was invited by the Nationalist Party, had extensive experience in power stations, gas installations, and safety issues.

Speaking at a press conference, Mr Fenech said the proposals by the PL were unrealistic. Costings were €200 million off the mark, timelines were wrong, and tariffs under the Labour plan would go up by 5% rather than go down by 25%. Furthermore, nowhere were 10-year price guarantees given in power purchase agreements.

Mr Seaman said LNG terminals constituted major safety issues because very large amounts of relatively volatile material was stored there. Therefore they were usually sited well away from other installations.

The PL proposal was at the small end of LNG terminals, which posed difficulties in finding suitably sized (small) tankers. Very few small tankers were in service and one doubted how many would be available, meaning that Malta might need to build its own.

He said sketches presented by the PL on the location of the LNG tanks were not good enough to discuss safety issues. Gas terminals, he said, needed to be designed in a way which mitigated the risks from the tanks, offloading and the marine operations.

The Seveso directive laid down stringent safety requirements in case of spillage or leakage eventually leading to evaporation.

Clearly, he said, there was 'a very clear win' of pipelines over gas terminals, although that did not mean that terminals could not be built safely.

Another matter was economies of scale. The PL proposal was for a very small plant, which would be rather costly compared to large plants.

On the timescales, he said the commissioning process from the health aspect alone would take 12 months at concept/design stage.

This was a complex design, and building would certainly take two to three years after permits was issued. To say just two years was very ambitious indeed, he said, although one could never say anything was impossible.

He said it was unusual for the terminal and the power station to be so close, although it was not impossible, although there could be an extra cost of 5% to 10% on safety measures. He however wondered whether there as enough space and said it would be more desirable to build the tanks a bit further from the power station. Still, tanks were built close to power stations, notably in Japan.

Mr Seaman said he had no personal experience of fire and explosions in LNG terminals and such cases were unusual. He acknowledged that a gas solution was better, from an environmental point of view, than using oil because there were no carbon emissions and machines could be more efficient.

Replying to further questions, Mr Fenech said it was clear that a gas pipeline was better than a gas terminal, but the PL had proposed a terminal without proper studies. The PN feared that in order to complete facilities within two years, a Labour government cut corners, and this would pose risks.

By Mr Seaman's own estimates, should normal timescales be followed, it would take six years to build the gas terminal close to the power station. That was the same timeline as the gas pipeline, which was the cheaper option, Mr Fenech said.




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