Updated 4.30 p.m.

Enemalta said today that BWSC engineers are investigating damage to a turbine at the Delimara power station extension.

The damage was first revealed by Labour MP Joe Mizzi when he spoke in Parliament late yesterday.

"Following the completion of the commissioning and reliability tests, a fault was identified on the steam turbine stop-valve. Investigations revealed that this fault was caused by parts of the strainer, installed just in front of the steam turbine, which had dislodged. Some of these parts also passed into the steam turbine causing foreign object damage which is currently being investigated by the manufacturer," Enemalta said.

"Preparations are being made by BWSC to make good this damage in the shortest possible time. It has to be noted that all the plant is still under the responsibility of BWSC who will have to rectify the damage at their expense. In fact, Enemalta has already sought legal advice on how to safeguard its interests," the corporation added.

In his speech during the adjournment, Mr Mizzi said the turbine was damaged during trial runs, while the emissions control mechanism was also leaking.

He said some parts had broken off during a test run and were carried by steam into the steam turbine. The turbine was opened on Monday, when the damage was confirmed.

Mr Mizzi said that contrary to what had been said by Finance Minister Tonio Fenech, the extension was not going through a full power run, since four of the engines were switched off during the night, during which time BWSC engineers carried out maintenance and inspections.

He asked if independent experts had been engaged to verify whether BWSC was achieving its contractual obligations and whether the authorities were satisfied both with the reliability of the plant, and its emissions control. 

In its reply, Enemalta explained how the power station extension is going through a process of testing to ensure that it is reliableand to verify the correct operations of the plant under all operational scenarios.

"It is not the intention of these tests to operate the plant continuously at full load.  The plant is designed to be operated on a start/stop basis in order to optimize the operating efficiency while meeting the varying daily load demand. This process is inherently more demanding than continuous operations. It is part of the normal procedure that whenever generating units are shut down routine checks and maintenance are carried out."

Emissions control

The corporation denied that there were sulphur emissions from the plant resulting in a health hazard to the personnel on site.

"It is however, confirmed that there have been minor discharges of sodium bicarbonate (commonly known as baking powder) which is used in the abatement process and dust from the valves of the abatement plant and the waste unloading system. These faults are being corrected and the valves are being replaced or modified. These discharges have nothing to do with the fault on the steam turbine."

On the engagement of independent experts requested by Mr Mizzi,  Enemalta said it has sufficient in-house expertise to properly supervise the reliability and performance tests of the new plant. 

"Finally it should be pointed out that the plant is still operational and has a combined electrical output of 136MW. Furthermore, contrary to the implication made by Mr Mizzi , there are no faults affecting the satisfactory operation of the abatement system which is working efficiently with emissions being significantly below those stipulated by legislation," it said.

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