Old assets at root of power system failure

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Long-standing warnings on reliability of Hardwoods, Stephenville, Holyrood generators

While continually stating reliability is a cornerstone of its system planning and operations, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro has failed to replace power generators that have past their life expectancy, even after they have been identified as obsolete and risks to the system.

Ed Martin.

The old, problematic machinery has been the source of Hydro's woes during this week's cold snap.

“Right now Holyrood is at about 40 to 45 per cent capacity entirely and, if we get Unit 1 back up, we would likely be at about 80 per cent capacity when that happens,” said Nalcor Energy president and CEO Ed Martin during a news conference at Confederation Building in St. John’s Sunday afternoon.

“The two gas turbines – the one in Stephenville, it’s up at 25 megawatts and there are some fuel line issues there that we’re dealing with,” he said.

Twenty-five megawatts of power is about half of that unit’s full production capacity.

Martin said Hardwoods, with similar capabilities, was not in service at all as of the time of the news conference, and was experiencing fuel line issues.

He said it's important to note the work on the power generators is unplanned repair work, rather than planned maintenance. However, in at least one instance, the repair work kicked in the very day after a planned maintenance program was completed. So what’s the real problem? “Hydro’s gas turbine plants at Stephenville, Hardwoods and Holyrood are more than 30 years old. The generally accepted life expectancy for gas turbine plants is between 25 and 30 years,” notes Hydro’s own 2014 capital budget application, filed with the Public Utilities Board (PUB).

“A complicating factor in Hydro’s case is that the manufacturer of the power turbines, one of the key components at the Stephenville and Hardwoods plants, is no longer in business, eliminating the availability of factory technical support and spare parts.

Also the manufacturer of the gas generators ( jet engines) at the Stephenville and Hardwoods plants has declared them obsolete and the supply of spare parts, technical support and repair facilities continues to diminish.”

In 2007, Hydro began a review of the Stephenville and Hardwoods units, in order to plan for an extension to their service lives. This is despite having already acknowledging the units were past their useful service lives.

The Stephenville gas turbine was commissioned in 1976. The Hardwoods gas turbine was commissioned in 1977.

Multi-year life extension projects were planned for both units, even as the Stephenville turbine suffered a service failure in late 2011, as noted in Hydro’s submissions to the PUB. Work at Hardwoods began in 2010, while Stephenville's refurbishment was to begin in 2014.

“Gas turbines will continue to play an important role within Hydro’s integrated generation plan in both isolated island and Labrador infeed scenarios,” stated Hydro.

The Labrador infeed option is more commonly known as the Muskrat Falls project plan.

The gas turbines are not the only pieces of power generation infrastructure stretched beyond reasonable limits. The generators at the Holyrood power plant are also on that list.

“The three units of the Holyrood Thermal Generating Station have now reached or exceeded their generally expected service life of 30 years,” Hydro has stated.

“Condition assessment and selective life extension will permit them to operate reliably until 2020.”

Meanwhile, Hydro has delayed submitting documentation to the PUB in recent years with regards to plans for the Holyrood power plant.

The PUB ordered Hydro to submit a detailed plan for Holyrood, to help it assess what might be necessary spending at the plant between now and 2020, when decommissioning is expected to finally begin as Muskrat Falls is up, running and through its earliest power-producing years. Yearly updates to this plan are expected.

Hydro has also noted an intention to seek approval – but has yet to file documentation and actually get approval – for a new powerproducing turbine for the island.

The Crown corporation has, however, stated to the regulator it can expect to see dramatic increases, records, in its proposed year-to-year spending on infrastructure — above and beyond Muskrat Falls project spending.

Organizations: Public Utilities Board, Nalcor Energy, Confederation Building Holyrood Thermal Generating Station

Geographic location: Stephenville, Holyrood, Muskrat Falls

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Recent comments

  • Feed the Cows, Save a Turbine
    January 12, 2014 - 23:11

    "The gas turbines are not the only pieces of power generation infrastructure stretched beyond reasonable limits." - this is HORSESHIT, we have aircraft flying around the world built in the 1950s. Ed Martin is in control of nothing except his poker face, and even that is slipping. I heard he said sorry, expressed regret, shed a single tear, or something the other day! WOW! Vale pointed out a lot of this stinky poop that he has been carrying in his diaper, in their submission to NL Hydro. The self-fulfilling prophecy is a powerful thing, thankfully we are not out blood sacrificing our first borns to the GODs of the COLD SNAP to ward off future outages. The PRIVATIZATION spell has been cast. Letting the equipment go, before a spending spree, is the telltail sign of impending privatization. It happened in Brazil, in the 1990s, ergo VALE, NALCOR is being prepped to go "PUBLIC" so the "PEOPLE" can own it, just as Fortis was born, we will birth another layer of White Collar Welfare over this one, we could be getting power from cow dung, if not for Bill 61! Free trade in crap, radical monopoly over the essentials. Resettlement 2.0 Way to go PC/Liberal collusion is visiable and need not proven, Liberals speak of managing the fallout, not preventing the meltdown. No opposition, yet the opposition will be rewarded. Its a relay race toward backrupting the province, as a bankrupt province is a bankable province - hungry workforce, or better yet, resettled (15% imported temps!), no say over the COMMON HERITAGE OF MANKIND, etc. RIVER MERCURY FOR SKY CARBON

  • Tony Rockel
    January 06, 2014 - 21:57

    The most obvious "old assets" at the root of this failure are Ed Martin and his equally incompetent cronies.

  • Ed
    January 06, 2014 - 18:15

    The blame for the current electrical crisis in Newfoundland lies with the executive at NALCOR, not with Newfoundland Power or with the employees who work at either of these two companies. Given that NALCOR is a Crown Corporation it is owned by the taxpayers of this province and we have no alternate source of electrical power for our homes or businesses. Given that, we have only one way for the people of Newfoundland to send a message that what has happened is not acceptable. We need to let the current government know that we are not happy by voting them out of office at the first opportunity and by letting them know now that this is coming. The government is responsible for the way this Crown Corporation is being run.

    • gord
      January 06, 2014 - 20:58

      Exactly! Great comment.

  • catherine altini
    January 06, 2014 - 17:37

    The Premier obviously doesn't know what a crisis is,otherwise she would never come out and say what she said. When people are shivering in their homes,with small children and elderly,bundled up for hours at a time,then I say there is a crisis going on. When homes are built in lot after lot in all communities,going further out of the city,then the power company needs to read the real estate ads. People in charge sit behind desks collecting their paychecks while the infrastructure rots or is never upgraded to handle the extra consumption of energy. I say it's about time to give the old heave ho to the whole lot and bring in someone with the knowledge that this is the twenty first century and Newfoundlanders deserve more than what is given.

  • J. Williams
    January 06, 2014 - 16:49

    Commentary: http://bondpapers.blogspot.ca/2014/01/the-great-blizzardblackout-2014-nlpoli.html#more http://unclegnarley.blogspot.ca/

  • Frustrated
    January 06, 2014 - 16:15

    I wonder if the so-called "big bang" last night was caused immediately after they tried to reboot the third remaining unit? Or is the third remaining unit already being booted up?

  • david
    January 06, 2014 - 16:06

    The Board of Directors of Nalcor is a real Who's Who list--- of Nothing. Absolutely. Nothing. It is the least impressive......wait, I take that back... it is the most completely ridiculous ad farcical list of unqualified, incapable, pork barrel appointments I have ever seen, Anywhere. For anything.

  • Ken Collis
    January 06, 2014 - 15:43

    Just think, Dunderdale is giving this bunch Billions of dollars to spend on Muskrat Falls. They have now proven that they are not able to manage the present business, let alone adding to the workload. Time to put these jobs on the market. How about the opposition parties. Anyone willing to say "fire the lot of them" or will it be the same old, same old, that we can expect if we vote for you. Lets hear some replys in the news. Should they be fired or not? Tell us please.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    January 06, 2014 - 14:57

    Naclor says that the peak demand on Thursday was 1,550 MW and that Thursday's peak demand was 35% above our average for the last five years. ..... Here is a cut-and-paste from Nalcor's Exhibit 103 document they filed with the PUB in 2011 (from 2002 up to year 2010, and years 2011 and 2012 data received by email from Nalcor:--- "Actuals Island Peak Demand (MW) 1,592,1,595,1,598,1,595,1,517,1,540, 1,520,1,601, 1,478, 1,544 1,550" ..... average 1,557 MW......... So Thursday's peak of 1,550 was well below our year 2009 peak of 1,601 MW and even below the 11-year average peak of 1,557 MW. ......"Lies, damned lies and statistics".

  • JasonD
    January 06, 2014 - 14:32

    You know, I seriously hope to see some of these jobs posted in Career Beacon or JobsInNL....

  • sc
    January 06, 2014 - 14:12

    Yes, Mr. Martin, everyone knows that the machinery is ancient, hasn't been maintained, breaks down frequently etc. etc. The question is why you (Nalcor) chose to do nothing about this sad state of affairs until you absolutely had to. Presumably you thought that because the generators etc. had worked in the past they would continue to do so well into the future. If that isn't short-sighted I don't know what is. Yesterday you stated that much of the problem now is caused by people who have many pieces of electronics and whose houses are using electric heat. Did this suddenly occur within the last month or so? Why didn't Nalcor choose to try to keep up with demand rather than stick its collective head in the sand and and assume that the power it produced a decade or so ago would be sufficient now? This is called planning -- something that Nalcor seems unable or unwilling to do. This attempt to blame individuals for this crisis (despite what Dunderdale wants to call it) shows how inept Nalcor is and how unwilling it is to accept any responsibility at all. I suspect that I speak on behalf of all NLers who wish to praise the employees who have worked so hard in in-climate weather to get the power back on. However, I am disgusted by the lack of preparedness, incompetence, blame-shifting, unaccountability of Mr. Martin and other executives at Nalcor and NL Hydro that are ultimately responsible for this mess. Mr. Martin, if you were at all an honourable person you would resign. However, I suspect that you will not and thereby prove that incompetence continues to be rewarded in this province.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    January 06, 2014 - 14:03

    This business of Holyrood being 40 years old is largely a pile of crap. MHI said that because Holyrood is is only rarely operated and needed to operate at capacity (less than 6 days per year) and when it is operating it normally operates at a very reduced capacity. Holyrood is effectively only about 20 years old. ... So once again, ratepayers are being bamboozled with bafflegab, half-truths and misleading statements (and intentionally so).

  • david
    January 06, 2014 - 13:49

    This cannot come as a surprise to anyone. This is a province where local hospital boards are still hoping and praying for their first X-ray machine. A rain forecast comes with hydroplaning warnings in deep highway ruts across the province. And crossing the gulf on the ferry amounts to spending 2 days of your life in daycare purgatory.

  • Randy Harnett
    January 06, 2014 - 13:42

    Bull Crap Mr. Martin. You didn't plan well enough.

  • mecatina
    January 06, 2014 - 11:55

    They may as well have been running the provincial ferry system. More to the point - they took (and are still taking) an unacceptable risk of not replacing / maintaining equipment required for the next 4-8 years until Muskrat is up and running / delivering.

  • Robert
    January 06, 2014 - 11:35

    This has become systematic. Show them the door !

  • Darth Sidious
    January 06, 2014 - 11:25

    When is Ed going to stop thanking everyone and just say to the people of the province " I'M SORRY! I haven't heard one of them say that! This has nothing to do with old equipment. They overloaded Sunnyside. Its old politicians and neglect to maintain what we already have. That's it! We had the money, we had the great leadership from the Premier and we had the experts at Nalcor. It never got done. Surprise, surprise, surprise. Why?

  • Ken Collis
    January 06, 2014 - 11:16

    As The Donald would say....YOU'RE FIRED!!! Should be at least.

  • Summer Equipment Maintenance Postooned
    January 06, 2014 - 11:00

    When the Holyrood turbine failed in 2013 a corporate decision was made to postpone summer maintenance on all other sutes and focus exclusively on the Holyrood repair. The failures of the other generation sites on Saturday due to the postoonement of maintenance resulted in Holyrood going down. A bad coroorate decision last year resulted in the situation we are in today.

  • Steve
    January 06, 2014 - 09:08

    How long has Nalcor been in the processed meat business? More specifically, baloney?

  • Dumbfounded
    January 06, 2014 - 07:59

    Nalcor as a Crown Corporation should be held accountable to the people of this province Mr. Martin how many Crown Corporation executives receive the salary you do plus all the perks you receive; along with other highly overpaid executives at Nalcor receiving salaries and perks that the people of this province pay via taxes and revenues from the offshore. Nalcor knew the turbine generators were close to completing their life expectancy or that the turbine generators had reached their life expectancy and did nothing about it. Wow what good leadership there Nalcor. Good business sense would have indicated that these turbines should be replaced; oh I forgot that money had to go towards Muskrat Falls and high paying salaries instead of ensuring that this province had power. Nalcor should disclose to the public all monies that has been spent to date on Muskrat Falls, the people of this province would be shocked the see what people are and have been paid working on that project. The public should also be asking to copies of the contracts that Nalcor is signing with various contractors to perform the work st Muskrat Falls the public will be surprised there as well. Nalcor, Newfoundland Power and the government need to answer with regards to where is the power that the pulp an paper mills were producing where is that now? Paper mills and most businesses i.e. Mining companies etc produce their own power because they require huge amounts of power to run their equipment and plant. There is no excuse for what has been happening poor management, poor leadership, poor planning and incompetency is alive at Nalcor and the Provincial government. My thanks goes out to the frontline workers out there risking their lives to ensure that people of this province have power.