Italy to approve new LNG terminal next week

A view shows the spot where a floating storage and regasification unit will be set up in front of the port city of Piombino, Italy, October 20, 2022. REUTERS TV via REUTERS

FLORENCE, Oct 21 (Reuters) - A state-appointed commissioner said on Friday he would give the go-ahead for Italy's new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in the Tuscan port of Piombino at the beginning of next week, in time for it to start delivering gas in the spring.

The infrastructure is part of Prime Minister Mario Draghi's outgoing government's plan to replace dwindling Russian gas supplies, which last year provided 38% of Italy's needs.

Under Rome's mandate, gas grid operator Snam (SRG.MI) in June bought a new floating storage and regasification unit (FRSU), pledging to have it operational by end-March.

The 5 billion cubic metre capacity (bcm) project has encountered stiff opposition from local and environmental grassroots associations, led by Piombino mayor Francesco Ferrari.

Ferrari is concerned about potential negative impacts on the environment and health risks for the population while other critics say the big-scale project will likely keep Italy hooked on gas for longer, slowing down its transition to renewable energy.

After a meeting with the commissioner and Snam in Florence, Ferrari said he would challenge the upcoming LNG approval decision in court.

"It is his right, we are in a democracy, but in the meantime the works will start," commissioner Eugenio Giani said.

Giani, who is also the president of the Tuscany region, said Snam confirmed that the FRSU would be able to start delivering gas in April 2023.

The commissioner added that the approval would be issued with conditions to ensure safety, respect for the environment and the prevention of damage to the port's infrastructure.

The new terminal will help refill the country's storage system that will run almost empty by the end of this winter and shore up Italy's energy security, the CEO of Italian energy company Eni (ENI.MI), Claudio Descalzi said earlier this month.

Reporting by Silvia Ognibene; writing by Francesca Landini, editing by Alvise Armellini and Elaine Hardcastle

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