The new gas-fired power plant at Delimara will have to be shut down for days at a time when supply from the LNG tanker is disrupted in the event of a severe storm, The Sunday Times of Malta has learnt.
Back-up sources of energy will in these instances be used to supply the island with electricity, in the form of the interconnector from Sicily and other parts of the Delimara power station.
According to studies published last week as part of the environmental-permit process for the new gas power station to be run by Electrogas, the LNG storage tanker sitting in the middle of Marsaxlokk Bay will be winched off its jetty at least three times a year due to inclement weather.
The operation will be carried out through a special storm mooring system, which will enter into action automatically once a decision is taken that it is too dangerous for the tanker to remain next to the jetty.
Because no onshore LNG storage was included in the design of the project, the supply of gas will be immediately interrupted each time the tanker is moved.
Enemalta should have no problem suppyling the required energy in these circumstances
This will trigger a complete shutdown of the gas-fired plants: the new Electrogas power station and the soon-to-be converted gas turbines forming part of the BWSC facility at Delimara.
“During short periods when the FSU [tanker] is away on the spread mooring, LNG will not be sent to shore, and other back-up energy sources will have to be used,” a spokesman for Electrogas said.
Asked what will replace the electricity produced by the gas-fired power plants, the spokesman referred this newspaper to Enemalta.
He added, however: “We are aware that they are fully prepared and ready with alternative sources in these instances.”
Questions sent to Enemalta about its alternative plan were not answered by the time of writing.
According to weather studies conducted as part of the permit process, the area where the tanker is to be permanently moored for the next 18 years is affected by severe southerly or south-easterly storms roughly three times a year.
The studies indicate that these storms normally subside after three days. This means there is the potential that the new power plant will not be in use for several days every year.
However, The Sunday Times of Malta is informed that Enemalta should have no problem supplying the required energy to the island in these circumstances. Much of the current electricity requirements are being provided to Malta’s grid through the interconnector and procured at very low prices by Enemalta.
Sources close to Enemalta said that last year, the peak demand for electricity, reached in August, stood at 426 MW. Enemalta itself refused to give the latest data on the peak loads experienced in 2015, with the corporation claiming it was “commercially sensitive information”.
If one excludes the Electrogas plant, Enemalta currently has the capacity to produce over 640 MW (megawatts) of electricity.
This includes 200 MW from the interconnector, other amounts from the older parts of Delimara and 144 MW from the BWSC plant, which is being converted to run on natural gas since its sale to Shanghai Electric. After the conversion, part of the plant will still be capable of running on diesel.