Page last updated at 14:22 GMT, Tuesday, 12 May 2009 15:22 UK

Six royals at LNG plant opening

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The Amir of Qatar greets crowds outside the LNG terminal in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire

Six British and Qatari royals have visited Pembrokeshire for the inauguration of a new liquefied natural gas terminal (LNG) at Milford Haven.

The Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Andrew attended the ceremony at the South Hook LNG plant, alongside the ruler of Qatar and two of his family.

The terminal, the largest of its kind in Europe, is a joint venture between Qatar Petroleum, ExxonMobil and Total.

Activists who had opposed the project have highlighted a new set of concerns.

The first tanker carrying LNG from the Middle East docked there in March.

South Hook is the first entry by Qatar into the UK gas industry.

The Amir of Qatar and the Queen
The Amir of Qatar with the Queen during the ceremony

The Amir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, and Sheikha Hind Bint Hamad Al-Thani were at the terminal's opening.

In an opening speech the Queen said: "One of the most positive aspects of human nature the world over is how much can be achieved when you work in partnership."

She went on to say that the project's "advantages flow both ways."

A 21-gun salute was fired during the opening ceremony by Royal Navy warship HMS Sutherland which had sailed into the port to take part in the celebrations.

When fully operational, the plant will be capable of meeting up to 20% of the UK's current gas requirements.

Energy company Centrica welcomed the opening of the Qatar partnership's South Hook LNG and underlined the "important" role Qatar will play in supplying LNG to the UK.

Until 2004, the UK was self-sufficient in gas. However, with indigenous supplies depleting rapidly, it will need to import up to 50% this year, and that figure will rise to around 75% by 2015.

Centrica chief executive Sam Laidlaw said: "The UK is now the world's fastest growing market for imported gas and now has a direct link with Qatar, the world's biggest LNG exporter.

"This significant milestone in bringing supplying and consuming nations together will be a huge boost to UK energy security.

Prince Andrew spoke exclusively to BBC Wales Today about the terminal's importance

Mr Laidlaw added: "Qatar is hugely important in energy terms and a major piece in a complex 'security of supply jigsaw'.

"Our relationship with Qatar is of particular importance and we look forward to building much closer ties over the coming years."

In March, protesters concerned about the safety issues were at Milford Haven when the first tanker carrying LNG arrived at South Hook.

Pressure group Safe Haven has opposed the building of the gas terminal every step of the way.

Safety fears

It has raised a series of safety concerns over the terminal going back to when it was first proposed.

Gordon Main, Safe Haven's spokesman, has repeatedly warned that the authorities have neglected to look at the consequences of a major LNG release at the terminal.

He was part of a small protest near the plant on Tuesday.

Mr Main said he had passed a new set of documents relating to the operation of the plant to the Health and Safety Executive in Cardiff which confirmed it had received a complaint and was looking into it.

Last week, the first in a generation of new "mega ships" which will transport the gas from the Middle East docked at the terminal.

LNG is natural gas which has been converted to a liquid by cooling it to a temperature of -160°C.

In its liquid form, it occupies one-600th the volume that it does as a gas, making it easier and more cost-effective to transport.

It will be turned back into gas at the terminals and pumped into the UK network along a specially constructed pipeline running from Milford to Gloucestershire.

South Hook is the larger of two terminals built at the port.

The other, Dragon LNG, a partnership between Malaysia's state oil firm Petronas, BG and the Netherland's 4Gas, is expected to become operational later in the year.



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