NewsRaising Concerns: The Unacceptability of Building an LNG Terminal in the Port...

Raising Concerns: The Unacceptability of Building an LNG Terminal in the Port of Bar

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LNG terminals are facilities classified as Category I for the risk of explosions according to European directives.

While at the end of last year, former Prime Minister Abazović enthusiastically spoke about the supposed significant success of his government, which included two ministers from Bar, due to the signing of agreements for the construction of an LNG terminal in the Port of Bar and, in the next step, the construction of a gas power plant, massive protests were taking place in Italy against the temporary location of an LNG terminal in the town of Piombino, one of the most polluted places in Italy.

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Not even the decision of the Italian Government to provide special subsidies to the citizens of that town due to the installation of the LNG terminal helped. A chain of people, 15 kilometers long, holding hands, protested against this project, which was intended to stay in that location for only 3 years before moving to another location, where the negative environmental and ecological impact would be completely avoided.

It wouldn’t be the first time that controversial projects are discussed through political campaigns and slogans rather than serious expertise and professional debates. The former socialist slogan “electrification plus industrialization equals socialism,” as well as agreements among the political elites of the time, were supposed to bring the “benefits” of complete pollution to the town of Bar with the construction of a sinter magnesite factory.

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Fortunately, the citizens of Bar were unanimously against it, and everyone mobilized in their own way to prevent such a project. Engineer Čedomir Čejović paid a high price for opposing “orders from above” and behind-the-scenes political agreements.

What is most scandalous about the actions of the previous government is encapsulated in the statement of the former Prime Minister Abazović that the “investor will choose the location where they will build” the LNG terminal in the Port of Bar. By what regulations is it even possible for someone to point a finger at a location they like and install whatever they want there, including facilities that are extremely dangerous and endanger the safety of people and all other existing economic activities and properties.

How is it possible to first make such crucial investment decisions and only later “cover” them with plans, public discussions, studies, and everything else that should precede decision-making in a rule-of-law state? In a rule-of-law state, this is called incitement to the commission of serious criminal offenses.

Indeed, in his later public appearances, the former prime minister explained that the adoption of the Spatial Plan would enable the realization of this “epochal” strategic project because, apparently, existing planning documents absolutely do not allow it. The person in charge of drafting the Spatial Plan diligently fulfills the given task and publicly announces multiple times that the public discussion about the plan will not change the strategic orientations.

What is an LNG terminal, actually?

It is a terminal for the transshipment and storage of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Unlike natural gas, liquefied gas is transported and stored by compressing it and holding it under high pressure to achieve a temperature of minus 162 degrees, at which point the gas becomes a liquid. Simply put, it’s similar to gas in a gas bottle but on a gigantic scale.

Such storage facilities, as well as the terminals themselves, fall under the first category of explosion hazard facilities according to current European regulations. Incidents involving explosions at LNG terminals and gas power plants have occurred, not in some distant underdeveloped countries, but precisely in the United States. One such explosion at an LNG terminal caused a disruption in the global market supply, accompanied, of course, by human casualties and material damage resulting from the explosion.

Therefore, the statement by the former Prime Minister Abazović that such a terminal will be built directly in the port, rather than, as envisioned by some development ideas of the port, behind the hill of Volujica, is additionally scandalous and seriously legally questionable. Similar challenges regarding hazardous substances in the port have occurred in the past but were successfully overcome.

In the late 1960s, the Belgrade-Zagreb design company “Centroprojekt” envisaged a plan to build an explosive materials storage facility right in the port. As documents show, engineers from “Jadranprojekt” in Bar, led by director engineer Čedomir Čejović, were astonished by such an idea and vehemently opposed it. Pyrotechnic research was conducted, revealing that an explosion at such a storage facility would devastate a significant part of the city, particularly because the Volujica hill, in the event of an explosion within the Port of Bar, would significantly amplify the impact of the explosion.

The explosion at the port in Beirut, where 218 people lost their lives, over 7,000 were injured, and more than 300,000 were left homeless, should serve as a significant warning for any project that can endanger human lives and property with explosive cargo in such a manner. This is particularly crucial for Bar due to additional risks in the event of destructive earthquakes, which are expected in the near future, according to the draft Spatial Plan authors.

Out of around 60 LNG terminals currently existing worldwide, a large number is positioned in the sea, several kilometers away from the shores, on platforms, precisely due to the risk of explosions and to minimize negative environmental impact. Instead of developing the Port of Bar in a way that addresses obvious mistakes, the former government envisioned moving towards further flawed and hazardous ideas.

In the late ’80s, engineer Čedomir Čejović, then the director of the Institute for Information and Development of the Municipality of Bar, and previously the director for the reconstruction of the city of Bar after the earthquake, initiated the amendment of the detailed plan for the industrial zone of Bar. The plan foresaw the construction behind Volujica Hill of new and relocation of existing reservoirs for liquid cargoes such as oil, fuel oil, and acetic acid, as well as the construction of a separate terminal for liquid cargoes.

The then manager at the Port of Bar, engineer Miodrag Raičević, and later engineer Zoran Tajić, strongly supported this idea in their letters. The existing storage facilities for oil, fuel oil, and acetic acid within the port, besides being contrary to modern port solutions, pollute the sea, pose a fire and explosion hazard, are risky in the event of earthquakes, and, on top of it all, hinder the further development of the port and represent a bottleneck for its normal functioning. The idea received support from the local parliament, a decision was made by the municipal assembly to proceed with the plan amendment, and later, interested investors showed interest.

Unfortunately, after that, the interest of the then “Jugopetrol” prevailed, along with plans developed again by the same design company “Centroprojekt.” As a result, the local leadership of Bar opposed the relocation of liquid cargo storage behind Volujica Hill in 1996.

This has caused irreparable damage to the city of Bar, condemning it to be dominated environmentally by oil, fuel oil, and acetic acid tanks, posing a threat to the safety of people and property, and polluting the sea. It is very possible that, if the investor so chooses (as former Prime Minister Abazović stated), the ideas for the current controversial projects for the LNG terminal and gas-fired power plant will be added to this. We can only hope that the rumors about placing the terminal at the root of the main breakwater in the port are not true.

Moreover, there are many expert opinions that dispute LNG terminals, and even more so gas-fired power plants, as projects of the so-called “green economy.” LNG terminals, for the vaporization of liquid gas, use enormous amounts of seawater, which is treated with liquid chlorine, and such chlorinated water is then returned to the sea.

As critics say, “Niagara Falls of chlorinated water” is discharged into the sea. The occurrence of significant amounts of foam is possible. In addition, liquid gas must undergo chemical treatment to achieve the required purity for further use – which is absolutely not an ecological operation. There are several studies indicating increased harm to human health. Not for the first time, periodic energy crises provide room for controversial projects – but always in someone else’s backyard.

This was the case in 2009, two years before the explosion of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, when the Italian and Albanian governments signed a memorandum of understanding for the construction of a nuclear power plant in Skadar. The then Minister of Economy of the Montenegrin Government welcomed the idea, offering to build such a nuclear power plant on the Montenegrin coast of Lake Skadar. However, the population of Shkodra vehemently protested.

At a round table marking the 30th anniversary of the catastrophic earthquake in April 2009, Engineer Čejović called for a sharp message of opposition to the idea.

“In the light of the complete discussion about the earthquake, I believe that this gathering must also initiate an effort to prevent the construction of a nuclear power plant in the vicinity of Skadar. It seems that both the broader and narrower expert public, weakly interested in this issue, vital for our country, have not noticed any reaction from state authorities, although it concerns construction that would rely on Lake Skadar, which is 2/3 of our territory.

Skadar, with its entire surroundings, is in an area of high seismic activity. Destructive earthquakes have been recorded in the earthquake catalog for that area. It is believed that the folk memory of earthquakes is precisely recorded in the famous poem about the construction of Skadar on Bojana, which people build during the day, and fairies dismantle at night.

It is unacceptable to build nuclear power plants in such an area. Our coastline is only about 30 km away from that area. Any incident would wipe entire cities off the geographical map. Lake Skadar, even without an incident, would be endangered by the operation of the power plant because its temperature would increase by several degrees.

This, it is believed, would destroy the plant and animal life of the lake. Large and expensive infrastructure works on the regional water supply essentially rely on the use of water from the lake. Whether we will drink slightly radioactively enriched water, irrigate fields with it, and consume such vegetables, and how that will affect future generations, is a question we must now consider.

Will the investors we want to attract invest several billion in development projects on Velika Plaža and other tourist capacities if there is a nuclear power plant about 30 kilometers away? All agencies from the region, and beyond, reported the words of engineer Čejović. The construction of the nuclear power plant in Shkodra was abandoned, and the explosion of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima two years later, as well as the consequences that persist to this day, show how right he was.

Instead of obediently nodding to every idea of foreign investors, the government is obliged to answer how it will protect the lives of its own citizens from possible incidents of these facilities, which cannot be completely ruled out, what risk these projects pose in the event of earthquakes, how it will ensure that the population is compensated if they lose their homes in case of incidents, without ending up like in Beirut, where even after 3 years, 300,000 citizens who were left homeless have received nothing yet, who will compensate the victims and their families, how it will ensure the normal functioning and development of the Port – which has no additional space for development, how such facilities will affect the tourist economy of the city of Bar, whether there will be a drastic drop in property values, etc. The content of the Memorandum has not been disclosed, and it is not known what obligations the government has undertaken.

Will Montenegro have to buy electricity from the future gas-fired power plant, which, according to all current indicators, is extremely more expensive than that from existing sources, and many other questions have been left without any answers from the government.

Our government needs to ask itself whether it should sacrifice one of the few coastal cities, given the very limited Montenegrin coastline of only a few hundred kilometers, compared to almost 6,000 km of the Croatian coast or almost 8,000 km of the Italian coast, for such controversial and possibly very dangerous projects.

Currently, some LNG terminals are operating well. However, in Italy, which is dependent on gas imports, out of only three existing LNG terminals, two operate with a capacity of less than 50%, and only one is near full capacity. In addition, official estimates from the International Energy Agency predict a drastic decline in gas consumption in the coming period, and the European Commission itself has foreseen a gradual transition from fossil to renewable energy sources, with its RepowerEU plan anticipating a 40% reduction in gas consumption in the EU by 2030.

British Petroleum, a company engaged in fossil energy sources, predicts a 50% reduction in gas consumption in the EU by 2030 compared to 2019 in its latest report.

In the light of the above, and considering the current interests of any investor, does it make sense to ignore the vital interests of this city and its population?

Bar in its history remembers devastating explosions. The old town of Bar was destroyed, and after the explosion, it never revived as a settlement. Let’s hope that common sense will prevail, that our government will act responsibly, and protect the safety of its own population and its interests. Additionally, it is hoped that our American friends and the European Commission will not insist on such a project, which is dangerous for the city of Bar and harmful from the perspective of many other economic interests, especially since it would contradict the official plans adopted by the EU.

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