Explosion Devastates Major Cypriot Power Plant

A brush fire that spread and detonated explosives stored at the Evangelos Florakis naval base in Mari on the southern coast of Cyprus on July 11 killed 13 people, injured 62 others, and severely damaged the Vassilikos Power Station—an oil- and gas-fired plant that supplied almost 60% of the island nation’s power. Cyprus, which was once considered an “economic miracle,” has been battling crippling power shortages that have beleaguered its financial and tourism sectors since the blast and left it on the verge of economic collapse.

“It is clear that Vassilikos Power Station has suffered enormous damage and it cannot be brought back into immediate operation,” the plant’s owner, Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC), said in a statement in July, adding that the Cyprus Energy Regulatory Authority and the Transmission System Operator (TSO) were doing everything possible to curtail power shortages. Owners of reserve generators were asked to put them into operation, and the country’s two international airports cut air conditioning and started operating power generators. EAC has also reportedly considered bringing mobile power generators to Cyprus.

The 767-MW plant comprised two ABB steam turbogenerators and a 37.5-MW gas turbine built in the past decade. In 2005, EAC added a new 130-MW single-steam turbogenerator with a boiler designed to burn heavy fuel oil. EAC had plans to add two combined cycle gas turbines as the fourth and fifth units at the plant, increasing its capacity to 861.5 MW. Cyprus’ generation capacity was 1,436 MW before the blast, the TSO has said. Experts say it could take a year or more to repair the plant.

The intensity of the blast destroyed property within a 3-kilometer radius, and damages have been estimated at between €1 billion and €3 billion ($1.42 billion to $4.27 billion). Three staff members were injured, but there were no deaths at the plant. State broadcaster CyBC reported that the exact cause of the fire has yet to be determined, but the government had ruled out sabotage.

The military-based stored munitions had been seized by Cyprus from a Russian-owned, Cypriot-flagged ship, Monchegorsk, in 2009. The U.S., UK, and France alleged that the ship had been chartered by Iran to relay weapons to Syria. Cyprus media say authorities knew the munitions were not being stored safely, but failed to take precautions.

—Sonal Patel is POWER’s senior writer.