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French Version

Gas pipeline could unlock massive benefits - ‘EDL will save $90 million a year’ (Daily Star)

Construction of the Syrian-Lebanese gas pipeline has recently resumed and is expected to be completed by May 2004, said George Kamar, an adviser to Water and Energy Minister Ayoub Humayed.

The 64-kilometer link will carry 1.5 million cubic meters of natural gas per day to the Beddawi power plant near Tripoli, and the Lebanese half is expected to cost $13.7 million.

The move “will allow EDL to save around $90 million per year at Beddawi,” said Kamar.

In the second phase, to be completed by 2005, the ministry will extend the pipeline from Beddawi to the country’s only other gas-fired plant, Zahrani, and increase the daily import of natural gas, from Syria, to a total of 3 million cubic meters.

EDL will “save, through the second extension, a total of $200 million per year by generating electricity with natural gas,” added Kamar, “and when we transform all of our plants to natural gas, EDL could save up to $300 million per year.”

Zahrani and Beddawi are Lebanon’s largest and most modern plants. They are designed to burn natural gas ­ a cheaper and environmentally friendly fuel, which also ensures a longer lifespan for power plants and is nearly 30 percent more efficient when used in combined cycle plants, as is the case in Zahrani and Beddawi.

The ministry has plans, according to energy expert Roudi Baroudi, to transform most gas-oil plants to natural gas to save money. “The price that the Syrian Petroleum Co. has given us is extremely encouraging,” said Baroudi, “and not grabbing this chance to save so much money would not make sense.”

To supply so much natural gas to the plants expected to undergo the switch ­ Hreiche, Zouk and Jiyye ­ the ministry has planned a third phase: to build a second international pipeline, coming to Zahrani from Syria and directly connected to natural gas pipelines in Jordan and Egypt. The Arab Gas Pipeline, as it is referred to, will supply Lebanese power plants with 6 million-7 million cubic meters of natural gas per day.

Ali Hamdan, the adviser of former Energy and Water Minister Mohammed Abdel-Hamid Beydoun, told The Daily Star that “supplying the power plants with natural gas is a great step, but another problem could surface because Zahrani and Beddawi are currently running on gas oil. This will affect the lifetime of the stations by more than 50 percent and will allow them to run for only 12 years instead of the average 25 years.” Kamar responded to this by saying “the plants can be refurbished when required,” which would incur more costs to EDL.

Through EDL’s effort to buy cheaper energy fuel, Baroudi said its customers would enjoy more efficient service, with very rare power cuts.

“At the same time customers’ bills will be decreased by at least 30 percent, making Lebanese businesses as well as industries more cost effective,” he said. “EDL is currently losing a lot of money, so hopefully the imported natural gas could create a break-even situation. As soon as EDL becomes profitable, by reducing its technical and non-technical losses, then prices could drop even further. But for the time being we have to focus on making it profitable.”

Lebanon has the second-highest electricity rates in the region after the Palestinian territories, reaching a staggering $13.20 per kilowatt/hour. According to EDL’s statistics, the company has lost more than 52 percent of the total electricity it generated in 2002, out of which 29 percent were lost to theft, faulty meters and administrative inefficiency.

Beirut 03-11-2003
Tarek El Zein
The Daily Star

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