The Ministry of Economic Affairs yesterday announced that it would move a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) project off Taoyuan farther from shore to “minimize any impact on algal reefs.”
In an effort to prevent the project from being blocked by a referendum, the ministry said that it had updated its proposal for the nation’s third LNG receiving terminal to move it another 455m from shore.
“By pushing the project farther out into deeper water, we no longer need to dredge the ocean floor,” Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua (王美花) told a news conference at the Executive Yuan in Taipei. “The algal reefs will no longer be affected.”
Photo: Peter Lo, Taipei Times
Although the new proposal would add NT$15 billion (US$536.11 million) to the project’s budget, the terminal could still be completed in two-and-a-half years, Wang said.
Environmentalists have said that the terminal — to be built in the Guantang Industrial Park (觀塘工業區) on the coast of Datan Borough (大潭) in Taoyuan’s Guanyin District (觀音) — would damage algal reefs in the area. They have successfully petitioned for a referendum to block the terminal, which the ministry says is essential for the government’s plans to transition away from coal.
Speaking at a separate ministry news conference later yesterday, Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Tseng Wen-sheng (曾文生) said that the nation’s efforts to burn less coal “would be put into reverse” if the referendum succeeds.
“We can finish the third LNG terminal in two-and-a-half years. Any alternative plan would take at least 11 years,” Tseng said.
There has been no update from the Rescue Datan’s Algal Reefs Alliance since the release of the new proposal.
Alliance convener Pan Chong-cheng (潘忠政) on Sunday wrote on Facebook that “there are still live reefs 1.5km from the shore.”
According to polls conducted by the DPP and quoted by the Chinese-language United Daily News, more than 50 percent of Taiwanese surveyed said they were against the project “if it means harming algal reefs.”
Support for a terminal farther away from shore received about 60 percent support.
Moving from burning coal to natural gas for electricity generation is a key part of President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) energy transition plan. Last year, the proportion of electricity generated by natural gas was 40.8 percent. The government plans to increase it to 50 percent by 2025 to reduce the use of coal as the nation’s remaining nuclear power reactors are retired.
However, two existing LNG terminals are already operating at “overcapacity,” meaning that new LNG power plants slated to come online in 2025 would have “no gas to burn,” Tseng said.
“For the LNG generators coming online in 2024, we can perhaps increase liquefaction facilities at our existing terminals to meet their needs, but in 2025 there will be two big LNG generators coming online that will need gas from the new terminal,” he said.
Voters are to weigh in on the referendum on Aug. 28, along with three others. It would need the support of at least 25 percent of all eligible voters, and the number of yes votes must be more than the no votes.
If the referendum passed, the ministry would respect the people’s wishes, Tseng said.
“There is no doubt of that,” he added. “But it will be at a heavy cost to the environment, as we will have to keep burning more coal.”
LNG generators produce about half the amount of greenhouse gasses per unit of power generated, and far fewer pollutants harmful to human health.
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