BEIRUT — The Energy Ministry issued a statement Wednesday apologizing for any environmental damage caused by the thick black smoke that rose from the Zouk Mosbeh power plant north of Beirut Tuesday, which the ministry mainly attributed to the power plant being shut down for a month and to the "exceptional" usage of Grade B fuel oil. Authorities recently used the low-grade fuel oil in Zouk Mosbeh and the Jiyeh plant to prevent "total" loss of electricity in September, due to a lack of appropriate fuel supply.
In a statement, the Energy Ministry said the "exceptional" decision to use Grade B fuel oil came following orders from caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and in coordination with the state-owned Electricité du Liban in order to provide the airport, port, water facilities and others facilities with power until an Iraqi fuel shipment arrives. The Iraqi fuel was reportedly "delayed due to the latest security incidents," in reference to recent violence in Baghdad.
In July 2021, Lebanon signed a deal with Iraq to receive the country's oil— via a complicated arrangement under which Lebanon could exchange the incoming Iraqi heavy fuel, which is not suited to run power plants, for other fuel from third parties that could be used in the plants. Last month, Iraq agreed to extend a deal that supplies EDL with fuel “for a period of one year, under the same conditions that were previously followed.”
The Energy Ministry said in its statement Wednesday that plumes like the ones that arose in Zouk Mosbeh usually last"for a brief period" until the power plant employees "do what is necessary" to stop them. The statement went on the say that in the future, EDL will obtain written approval from Mikati in order to restart power plants left off the grid by lack of fuel.
It is not the first time that thick black some rises from the Zouk Mosbeh power plant. In May, a fire broke out across the plant, and Civil Defense teams managed to control the blaze, stating that a garbage dump right across the plant went up in flames.