New gas power plant to miss another deadline as LNG tanker conversion is delayed

The new LNG power plant in Delimara being built by Electrogas has hit another snag and will not be up and running by June as originally announced by the government.

Sources close to the project confirmed the main reason for missing the second deadline is a delay in the conversion of the LNG tanker that will be used as a permanent floating storage unit for the project.

"The tanker, which is currently undergoing a major conversion job in a Singapore shipyard, needs further time as it was found to have a substantial amount of asbestos," one source said.

"Thus, the conversion job will be taking longer than originally projected as all the asbestos has to be removed before the ship can leave the shipyard facility and sail to Malta,"

It is not yet clear how far the delay will put back the project although Electrogas is hoping that it will only be a matter of a few months.

In December 2014, when conceding that the new power plant would not be completed, as promised, by March 2015, then Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi had promised Parliament that it would be up and running by June 2016 at the latest.

However, this deadline is set to be missed once again.

"I am ready to take the political flack for the missed deadline," Dr Mizzi had told Parliament about the 15-month delay he had announced in December 2014.

At the same time he had promised that "electricity from the gas-fired power plant will start reaching Maltese homes in June 2016".

Asked to confirm that the June deadline will not be met due to the amount of asbestos found during the ongoing conversion of the LNG tanker, a spokesman for Electrogas did not specify when the vessel would be reaching Malta.

"There are no drastic changes to the timelines already communicated in the past and we are still forecasting to be operational in summer. The Floating Storage Unit is undergoing conversion works and will be asbestos free when she sails here into Malta," the spokesman said. Asked to specify the month when the LNG storage facility was expected to sail into Delimara, the spokesman only said it would be in summer.

Dr Mizzi, who last week was made minister without portfolio over the Panama Papers scandal but is still in charge of energy projects, not wish to comment on the June commitment he had given to Parliament. "Kindly refer your questions to Electrogas consortium," was his curt reply.

The Sunday Times of Malta is informed that the Wakabu Maru, an LNG carrier built in 1985, entered the Keppel shipyard of Singapore last October to be converted for the Malta project.

Until last February, the project was only 42 per cent complete. The ship, now named LNG Mediterrana, was sold to Malaysia's Bumi Armada by Japan's Mitsui OSK lines. The Malaysian company won the contract from Electrogas to supply, operate and maintain the vessel for the Malta project.

The Wakabu Maru had been put up for scrap by Mitsui OSK lines a year earlier. The main part of the conversion job being carried out in Singapore is a life extension to the veteran ship to allow it to remain on station in Delimara for 18 years without dry-docking.

Electrogas is a private consortium made up of Maltese, Azerbaijani and German shareholders. The government had issued an unprecedented Euros 360 million State guarantee to cover the loans of the private investors for this project.

Source: Times Of Malta