Piombino (Italy) (AFP) -
A new floating storage and regasification unit considered crucial to Italy's energy security arrived in Tuscany on Sunday, sparking local protests.
Once installed at the Piombino site, the Golar Tundra will receive liquified natural gas (LNG) from other carriers, which it will turn back into a gaseous state that can be fed into Italy's national network.
Stefano Venier, chief executive of Italian gas group Snam, which owns the unit, said earlier this week it would be operational from May.
The project is key to Italy's plan to reduce its reliance on Russian gas following the invasion of Ukraine, which has also seen it sign new deals with partners such as Algeria and Libya.
Former energy minister Roberto Cingolani said last year it was 'essential for national security'.
The location was chosen so gas can be easily transported to Italy's heavily industrialised north, although the government says it is temporary, and that after three years it will move.
But there have been months of local protests against the project, and a small march was staged Sunday ahead of the vessel's late-night arrival from Singapore.
Opponents say it will pose health and safety risks for those travelling between the port city of Piombino and the island of Elba, a popular holiday destination.
Environmental groups have also warned the project will slow down Italy's transition to renewable energy.
The Golar Tundra can store 170,000 cubic metres of LNG and has an annual regasification capacity of five billion cubic metres, according to Snam.
'Five billion cubic metres of gas allows us to reach levels of self-sufficiency that allows families to think about lower bills,' said Tuscany President Eugenio Giani at the port.
Snam said last summer the unit could contribute around 6.5 percent of Italy's needs, bringing national regasification capacity to over 25 percent of demand.
Russia provided around 40 percent of Italy's gas in 2021 but this fell to 16 percent last year, officials say.