Energy: opposition to the liquefied natural gas project

The realization of the liquefied natural gas project is highly doubtful. A number of experts are of the opinion that the government is on the wrong track by exploring the possibilities of this project becoming a reality soon.

The liquefied natural gas (LNG) project is the subject of several discussions at the highest level of government. So far, this has been highly dubious on several levels. It is both financially and technically complex. Given Mauritius’ strong environmental commitment to using more green energy, its environmental aspect cannot be overlooked.

Moreover, while lobbyists around the world promote LNG as a transitional energy source, the fact is that it is a fossil energy source and its environmental impact is problematic. It is not an easy task to implement the project at the financial level. Reason: the investments are several billion rupees.

Technical complexities are also important because they are multifaceted. First, at the level of infrastructure that should be built around it. Then at the tender call model level.

Investment of 12 billion rubles

Initial estimates suggest that the project would require an investment of Rs 12 billion and therefore a project of this magnitude cannot be implemented through a simple tender. According to several technicians of the Central Electricity Board (CEB), a “government-to-government contract” or even a “selective tender” would be more appropriate.

Based on the environmental impacts of LNG, Sunil Dowarkasing, a former strategist at environmental organization Greenpeace, believes the government is on the wrong track with the project. “First of all, we should not hide our faces. “LNG is a fossil energy source that is as damaging as coal.” It highlights the worldwide disinformation campaign around LNG.

“The reality is that the US administration is lobbying hard for LNG on the argument that we can’t move away from coal and go straight to renewables. Major Americans are promoting LNG as a transition energy. But the truth is that the United States is a major producer of LNG. So they are interested in their own interests,” adds Sunil Dowarkasing.

In parallel, he points out, there is a large anti-LNG movement that strongly opposes this energy source. It highlights the entire environmental disaster surrounding the extraction of natural gas from underground rocks. However, the international pro-LNG lobby is gaining ground around the world.

Sunil Dowarkasing notes that the last edition of COP 27 was held in Egypt, which has a large natural gas field and is exploited by the Italians. Exploitation of natural gas has no meaning for the former deputy. According to him, wind and solar energy are becoming more and more efficient. In addition, he continues, Germany, one of the world’s largest industrial countries, uses 60% to 70% renewable energy. “The German model is an example to follow,” he says.

An argument that doesn’t hold water in 2022

University of Mauritius (UoM) lecturer Khalil Elahi agrees. Commenting on the argument for introducing LNG as a transition energy source, he claims this could happen as early as 2008. “In a report I myself chaired in 2008 during the Maurice Ile Durable task force, LNG could be used as a transitional energy source. But given the significant advances in solar panels and storage batteries, this argument no longer holds water in 2022,” he explains. Moreover, he says, if Mauritius insists on LNG, we will be doomed to deal with this energy for many more years due to the huge investments that will be absorbed.

Outline of the Poten and Partners report

Le Défi Plus was able to consult part of the Poten and Partners report on the feasibility of an LNG project in Mauritius. This part of the document established that the project was completely feasible. The report also identified Albion and Port Louis as suitable locations for LNG import and storage infrastructure. These areas are protected from the trade winds from the southeast.

Meeting between Ivan Collendavelloo and MSM on the project

The implementation of the project caused serious controversy within the L’Alliance Lepep government between 2014 and 2019. A few elected representatives of the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM) passed, as well as the “chief advisers” of the Prime Minister. iron with former Minister of Energy and Public Services Ivan Collendavelloo.

Even at one time, project supervision was removed from the responsibility of ISIM and entrusted to the Economic Development Board (EDB) and the State Trade Corporation (STC). The project faced a series of setbacks, especially after the call for tenders announced by CEB in 2018 for the first phase.

Spain’s TSK Electronica Y Electricidad SA opposed the idea of ​​awarding the contract to Greece’s Mythilineos Holding SA. The Independent Review Panel hearing the case agreed with the contention. He had ordered a re-evaluation of the project.

Then it was the Finance Ministry’s turn to add its salt by issuing a circular. This necessitated that the re-evaluation be carried out by a different committee than the one conducting the exercise. This circular was issued when the CEB appointed the same persons to re-evaluate the project.

Lack of critical mass

Does Mauritius have the necessary experience to realize an LNG project? The answer, according to Khalil Elahi and Labor MP Patrick Assirwade, is no. The latter alleges that the Poten and Partners report, commissioned under former Public Services Minister Ivan Collendavelloo, led to a lack of critical mass in Mauritius to ensure the smooth running of the project.

“It is not difficult to buy equipment. There is a problem at the level of the infrastructure to be built. LNG has nothing to do with oil and gas, which are quite simple to import and transport. It is an ultra-sensitive liquid that requires a lot of care. The warehouse and pipes to be installed require thought,” the deputy explains.

He also emphasizes the importance of knowing where to build the LNG plant. “Its development in the port can be a big threat because there is not enough space. All this makes me suspicious,” he says.

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