PRESS RELEASE BY THE MINISTRY WITHIN THE OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER: Agreement reached with Sicily Region on the Med-Link Malta-Sicily Gas Pipeline

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat highlighted that the agreement signed today, 29 May 2017, crystallizes the commitment of the Government of Malta and the Regione Siciliana to ensure the succesful commissioning of the ‘Med-Link’ pipeline. This is another important friendship link in the Mediterranean, and a key step in the turnaround of Malta’s energy sector.

The Prime Minister noted that following the introduction of Liquefied Natural Gas, Malta’s next critical step in its National Energy Policy is the implementation of a Gas Pipeline with Italy (Sicily, Gela). The Pipeline will connect Malta to the European Natural Gas Network. Hence the name ‘Med-Link’. Once commissioned, the pipeline will replace the temporary FSU currently berthed at Delimara.

This policy fits in the EU’s Energy Union Strategy, and thus makes the pipeline a Project of Common European Interest. EU policy stresses the need to end Member States’ energy isolation, and calls for a well-connected pan-European electricity and gas network as precondition for a genuinely functioning EU Internal Energy Market. This is a critical component to ensure (i) security of supply, (ii) sustainability, and (iii) affordability of energy for families and businesses.

Minister Konrad Mizzi emphasised that Government is committed to implement this. He emphasised that inOctober 2013, the project was selected by the EU as a Project of Common Interest, in line with EU legislation adopted in 2013 (REG 347/2013). Such projects are considered as essential to complete the EU’s energy network, and thus are considered critical for the respective Member State as much as it is for the EU.

In view of their importance, PCI enjoy certain benefits, namely: (i) accelerated permit granting procedure, (ii) improved regulatory treatment, and (iii) eligibility for EU funding through the Connecting Europe Facility.

Following its selection as a PCI in 2013, the pipeline project progressed steadily. Starting in September 2013, a Feasibility Study and Cost-Benefit Analysis was completed in April 2015, which identified a basic route, sizing, and approximate landing points on both sides of the border.

In November 2015, Government started a more detailed study for Route Identification and Basic Design. This study, which is being finalized, was carried out by Belgian firm Tractabel Engineering. The study identified a 1.2 km corridor, stretching 158km, a 22 inch diameter pipeline, with a capacity of 2 Billion Cubic Meters (BCM), with a defined landing point in Delimara, Malta, and Gela, Sicily at a total estimated cost of 320 million euro.

This data is currently being translated into a Scoping Report, which will be submitted to the Italian and Maltese Authorities this summer to formally start the permitting process. In the meantime, a detailed marine survey and EIAs on both sides of the border will start in 2018.

The pipeline project has now matured to the point that it requires a Gas Transmission System Operator (TSO). The Maltese Gas TSO will be established by Government this summer, and is intended to build, commission, operate, maintain the pipeline and transmit gas from Gela to Delimara. The TSO shall be an independent operator, and tariffs shall be regulated to make sure that any savings are passed on to the consumer.

The Interconnector experience taught us that cross-border energy projects require serious attention to the respective permit granting procedures in the respective countries. It requires diligent planning, and robust diplomatic ties with neighbours in question, as well as continuous nurturing of relations for the benefit of both countries. This is exactly what Government is doing in the case of the pipeline.

Formal high-level and technical bilateral talks started with Rome in February 2015, and more recently with Palermo.

Minister Mizzi emphasised that such meetings continue on a routine basis, and Government is pleased to note the genuine support both from the Italian Government in Rome, and the Sicilian Region in Palermo for the realization of the project. In this regard, the Minister was pleased to note that on 22 May 2017, a high-level meeting in Palermo agreed in principle on the Pipeline’s landing point in Gela and onshore route.

Source: Government of Malta