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Advisory Council on the Environment

 

 
 
 

 

Progress on Investigations into the Location of Permanent Aviation Fuel Receiving Facility for Hong Kong International Airport (without Attachment 1)

(ACE Paper 38/2000)
For information

 

PURPOSE

The purpose of the paper is to update Members on the current position regarding the search for a suitable site for a permanent aviation fuel receiving facility for Hong Kong International Airport.

  1. Members are invited to note that:
    1. This paper has been prepared in response to Members' request for an update on the current position.
       
    2. The Authority decided in 1999 not to pursue East of Soko Islands and Kau Yi Chau sites;
       
    3. The site search had failed to find any suitable site in Hong Kong Waters, other than north of Lantau.
       
    4. The Authority decided to focus its effort north of Lantau and thus the transit of large aviation fuel vessels through Ma Wan Channel was revisited by conducting a quantitative risk assessment study update.
       
    5. Results have shown that the societal and individual risks associated with the transit of aviation fuel in large tankers through Ma Wan Channel can now be reduced to ALARP. It is therefore believed that the Ma Wan Channel can be transited by large aviation fuel tankers;
       
    6. As a result, the Authority in conjunction with Government has re-evaluated all possible options north of Lantau and is now focussing on 3 sites , namely Tuen Mun West , Tuen Mun Area 38 and Sham Shui Kok and seeks Members' views on these options;
       
    7. Item (d) and (e) above are the reasons why little progress has been made in identifying a feasible site for the permanent aviation fuel receiving facility since the Authority last reported to ACE in 1998.
       
    8. It is anticipated that the permanent aviation fuel receiving facility will be operational between year 2005 and 2007 depending on the site selected; and
       
    9. The Aviation Fuel Receiving Facility (AFRF) at Sha Chau will remain under interim use, but will revert to an emergency back-up facility once the permanent facility is available.

BACKGROUND

Site Search since September 1998

  1. The Authority last updated Members on the issue in September 1998 (ACE Paper 40/98). At that time it was decided not to pursue the two options south of Lantau due to their potential environmental impact, high cost, long time frame and operationally inferior facilities.
     
  2. The position thus reached in early 1999 was effectively:
    1. Options south of Lantau had been ruled out; and
       
    2. Tuen Mun West had been earmarked by the Authority as a potential site.
       
  3. At that time the Authority, in the absence of a suitable site, sought Government's views on the way forward. It was determined that it would be worthwhile, due to change in circumstances, to revisit the question of risk to life associated with Ma Wan Channel being used for the transit of large aviation fuel tankers. The risk assessment update consultancy was awarded in early 2000.
     

Ma Wan Channel Hazard Assessment Study

  1. The outcome of the previous (1993) Ma Wan Channel Hazard Assessment Study was that the use of the Channel for ocean-going aviation fuel tankers did not gain Government support. The reason for this was that the transit of large tankers through the Channel exhibited levels of risk that could not at that time be mitigated to a level as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP). Options which did not involve the use of the Channel (i.e. south of Lantau) were considered feasible at that time, and therefore options north of Lantau were shelved.
     
  2. The risk assessment update took note of changes since the 1993 Study, which include the introduction of vessel traffic control through the Channel and the introduction of restrictions to transit of vessels during periods of low visibility. The study update concluded that the societal and individual risks associated with the transit of aviation fuel in large tankers through Ma Wan Channel can now be reduced to ALARP, and are therefore acceptable.
     
  3. Government Departments including EPD, MD and EMSD reviewed the study update and concluded in October 2000 that there were no insurmountable problems in allowing large aviation fuel vessels to transit Ma Wan Channel subject to detailed assessment of mitigation measures to show compliance with ALARP risk guideline. Thus, sites north of Lantau making use of Ma Wan Channel, which were excluded in the 1993 Study, are now available for reinvestigation.

Possible Options

  1. Three options have emerged, determined jointly with Government. They are located in Tuen Mun West, Tuen Mun Area 38 and Sham Shui Kok, as shown on the plan in Attachment 1. All sites are on Government land/water.
     
  2. As soon as one of these options is selected, it would be subject to full EIA. Currently it is expected that a final decision on a site will be taken in 2001.
     
  3. For Tuen Mun West, Government would take at least two years to decide whether this option is available for the aviation fuel facility as the site is earmarked for port development. A study by Government will commence late next year. If a green light is given in 2002, reclamation and construction of the aviation fuel facility would only be completed by around 2009. This option therefore does not meet the Authority's time frame. However, if Government were to delink it from the port development study, which covers about 200 ha, and separately offer a small part of the site (6 ha) to the Authority, the facility could be completed around 2007.
     
  4. Sham Shui Kok poses similar problems. It also requires reclamation. The earliest completion date for this option is 2007.
     
  5. In terms of timeframe, Tuen Mun Area 38 appears to be a better option, as it could be completed as early as 2005. The area is currently earmarked for the 4th Industrial Estate Development. The total available area is 40 ha, of which about half has already been reclaimed. The Authority is now working with Government to investigate the possibility of using about 6 ha of the reclaimed land for the aviation fuel facility.
     
  6. AA would consult ACE during the EIA process.

Environmental Issues at Tuen Mun West, Sham Shui Kok and Tuen Mun Area 38

  1. The proposed aviation fuel facility is classified as a "Designated Project" under the EIA Ordinance and an environmental permit is required prior to project commencement for either of the three options.
     
  2. It is expected that items to be covered in the EIA will be largely similar for each of the three options identified, albeit with different emphasis on certain items dependent on location. Common areas to be addressed would include noise (including underwater noise), air, visual impact, risk to life, water quality and marine ecological impacts covering both the construction and operational phases. Aviation fuel spill modelling and forecasting studies might also be required.
     
  3. A key issue is the potential impact on marine mammal population and this aspect will be fully addressed for the selected option. The design and construction methodology proposed for jetty construction is of key concern and this will be carefully considered. Cumulative impacts arising from all proposed developments in the vicinity of each option will also be considered, as will the construction and operational impacts of proposed pipeline routes. Two alternative pipeline routing options would be considered at the EIA stage for either of the Tuen Mun options, one connecting directly to the existing facility at Sha Chau (reducing the requirement for new submarine pipeline by 50%), and one extending to the western side of the airport.
     
  4. The Authority would be mindful of the impacts on the marine park when assessing the feasibility of the various options.
     
  5. Based on an initial understanding of each of these potential impacts, and the likely mitigation measures required, it is anticipated that none of the three options should present any insurmountable problems within the context of a full EIA, bearing in mind the Authority's previous construction and operational experience of the AFRF at Sha Chau.
     
  6. Nevertheless, the environmental benefits and disbenefits of the three options will be compared and carefully considered in the selection of a preferred option. There will be public consultation on the selected site within the EIA process.

Other Studies and Approvals required for Tuen Mun West, Sham Shui Kok and Tuen Mun Area 38

  1. Other studies and approvals for the three options are expected to be similar, viz, Marine Traffic Impact Assessment, and for meeting requirements under OZP in compliance with the Town Planning Ordinance and the Foreshore and Seabed Ordinance.

Performance of Environmental Mitigation Measures in Place at Sha Chau

  1. Members are advised that the AFRF at Sha Chau continues to function very well. Operational mitigation measures continue to be implemented in full by AFSC Operations Limited with all activities regularly audited by the Authority's environmental team. Mitigation measures include:
    1. enforcement of a zero discharge policy for solid and liquid wastes from the AFRF at Sha Chau;
       
    2. maintenance of a comprehensive spill response capability, including regular staff training as well as combined spill response training exercises involving EPD's Marine Pollution Control Unit, AFCD, FSD and other Statutory Authorities; and
       
    3. continued use of dedicated fuel vessels with enhanced manoeuvrability and piloted by crews briefed on 'dolphin friendly' operations in a Marine Park.
       
  2. Members may also wish to know that two additional six-month phases of dolphin monitoring have been completed by AFSC Operations Limited's consultants in waters around the operational facility. The most recent study concluded that estimates of dolphin abundance do not show any decreasing trend in north Lantau waters and dolphin populations now appear to be stable in the area (Attachment 2).
     
  3. The Authority also recently commissioned an assessment of underwater noise levels in waters around Sha Chau in order to confirm whether the noise performance of aviation fuel delivery vessels meets the requirements stipulated by the Authority. The study concluded that the stipulation is being met (Attachment 3).
     
  4. The Authority will continue to pay for the operating costs of the Lung Kwu Chau and Sha Chau Marine Park, until the AFRF at Sha Chau reverts to an emergency back-up facility. The Way Forward
     
  5. The Authority remains committed to expediting completion of a permanent aviation fuel facility.
     
  6. Selection of a site will be from the three options, namely, Tuen Mun West, Sham Shui Kok and Tuen Mun Area 38. Environmental merits and demerits of each of these options will be a major consideration in the selection. A decision on the selection of a site is expected in year 2001.
     
  7. As soon as the site is selected, the Authority will inform Members of the time frame for completion of the project, aiming to fast track it, so that the AFRF at Sha Chau can revert to an emergency back-up facility as soon as possible.

Airport Authority
December 2000


 

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