Shuttering Holyrood station

Moira Baird
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

In this photo taken from near the bridge trussel in Seal Cove Wednesday, the Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro — Nalcor Energy — power generating energy plant in Holyrood can be seen across the harbour from Seal Cove. The plant is shut down for its annual summer maintenance. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

It’s not about the emissions — it’s about the high cost of oil at the Holyrood thermal generation station.

Shutting down the oil-fired generating station in Holyrood is a central theme of the $6.2-billion Muskrat Falls project as Nalcor Energy forecasts higher Bunker C heavy oil prices in the future.

At the same time, Nalcor expects power consumption to steadily increase as people switch to electric heat, newly built homes use electric heat and industrial customers, such as Vale’s Long Harbour nickel processing plant, come onstream.

The provincial energy corporation says the combination will make Holyrood increasingly expensive to operate.

“For us, based on the alternatives and options that we have available to us, interconnecting with Labrador and developing Muskrat Falls is a lower-cost alternative than continuing to rely on Holyrood,” said Gilbert Bennett, Nalcor’s vice-president for the Lower Churchill project.

He was one of several Nalcor executives who spoke with The Telegram’s editorial board Monday.

“We have seen and continue to see consistent increases in electricity demand on a per household basis,” said Bennett.

High-priced oil

If the island portion of the province remains isolated from the Labrador hydro grid, Nalcor says the only source of extra power is the Holyrood plant.

And that means burning increasingly expensive fuel.

Nalcor forecasts Bunker C fuel costs will average $384 million annually between 2017 and 2036 to generate electricity at the plant.

Simple math says that long-term projection works out to about $7.3 billion.

The 500-megawatt plant has supplied between 15 per cent and 25 per cent of the island’s electricity needs during the past four decades, according to Nalcor.

In the past decade, the plant has averaged about 18 per cent of the hydro supply. (See chart for details)

The plant burns about 18,000 barrels of oil per day during peak production. Nalcor says that could rise to 21,000 barrels per day once the Long Harbour nickel plant is up and running.

End of emissions

For people in the Holyrood area, Muskrat Falls will spell the end of plant emissions — particulate, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide.

Nalcor says the plant emits more than one million tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHGs) annually.

“One of the energy plan commitments was to either retire Holyrood, if we have a Lower Churchill inter-connection, or to install electrostatic precipitators and scrubbers on that facility to eliminate those emissions,” said Bennett.

The energy plan was released by the Williams government in 2007.

Nalcor says those scrubbers and electrostatic precipitators can reduce sulphur dioxide and particulate emissions by up to 95 per cent.

But the corporation says it could also increase nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide emissions by about five per cent.

The company estimates the cost of installing the equipment at almost $600 million, along with annual operating costs of $12 million to $15 million.

No GHG restrictions

A new source of hydro power could accomplish what concerns about emission have not: end hydro generation at Holyrood.

“Our analysis is … that we can continue to run Holyrood in its existing state until 2033-2035, with no restrictions on GHGs,” said Bennett.

“That’s the best-case scenario.”

While the federal government is slowly moving toward greenhouse gas legislation, Bennett said it’ll target coal-fired facilities first.

Oil-fired facilities, such as Holyrood, will be next.

But by then, Bennett said “the facility will come down at the end of its useful life and be replaced… . That is not being driven by emissions.”

Once Muskrat Falls comes online in  2017, the Holyrood plant will remain — but it will no longer have boilers or smokestacks.

The generators will remain since the plant will continue as the terminal station for the Holyrood area.

It will also serve as a voltage regulator — housing synchronous condensers used to help maintain voltage levels along power lines as needed.

Backup power

Why not maintain Holyrood as a potential backup source of power? The short answer: cost.

Besides, Nalcor says restarting the plant would take about as long as fixing an outage problem in the first place.

“To do a black start on Holyrood is three or four days,” said Dawn Dalley, Nalcor’s communications manager, on Wednesday.

“The chances of not being able to repair something that happened on a line after three or four days would be slim.”

Nalcor says it has designed its hydro link connecting Labrador and Newfoundland with plenty of “robustness and redundancy.”

Two power lines flow electricity to the Avalon Peninsula from Baie d’Espoir.

A third line is planned as part of upgrades to the Avalon transmission system and is expected to be available by the time power flows from Muskrat Falls.

The Labrador inter-connect will be the fourth line. It uses what’s called a bipole design — allowing one side of the pole to continue moving power if the other pole fails.

As well, Dalley said power can be imported to the island via the Maritime  link to Nova Scotia.

mbaird@thetelegram.com

Watch for more articles on the Lower Churchill development in the days ahead in The Telegram.

Organizations: Nalcor Energy

Geographic location: Holyrood, Newfoundland, Long Harbour

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Rusty Waters
    August 15, 2011 - 09:40

    Apparently there is a significant amount of hydro power that can be still developed on the island, in the watershed of the Bay d' Espoir area to take care of the Holyrood production.

  • dgr
    August 12, 2011 - 13:53

    Mr. Bennett That's why we should have wind power to keep water levels in Bay d'Espoir reserviors high for the winter months and other hydroelectric power sites on the island. I don't know where you get your over 50 year records because Bay d'Espoir came online in 1967 and Churchill Falls came on line in 1971. But i guess you can't remember that. But there's always Google you should try it sometime your facts will be more real. I thought Nalcor was all about accountability.

    • Jason Callan
      August 15, 2011 - 11:35

      I don't believe that Mr. Bennett was refering to the operational existance of the hydro plants, but to the available meterological data that is used. (IE rainfall etc) Many years of data would have been collected specifically to support the technical viability of those projects before they were built. And non specific data (ie normal environment weather station data) would also have been collected for years.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    August 12, 2011 - 12:00

    Thank you Mr. Bennett for your comments. FACT --- 98% of Nalcor's long term (40 year) Historical Load compound annual growth rate of 2.3% comes from the years 1970 to 1989 (only about 2% of that growth comes from the last 21 year period, for a compound annual growth rate over the most recent 21 years of only 0.1%, and an actual NEGATIVE compound annual rate over the last 6 years of about 2% downward. Our total demand for 2010 therefore is almost identical (may even be slightly lower) than what it was in 1989. FACT ------- both the long term (21 year) and short term (6 year) historical load trends are declining and DOWNWARD, not upward. FACT: ---- Nalcor's go forward 57 year 0.8% increasing demand rate is 8 times (800%) greater than the past 21 year historical load rate of 0.1%. FACT ----- while Nalcor has repeatedly said that recent reductions in demand is because of paper mill closures (thereby suggesting that residential demand was not part of the downward trend), Nalcor's Annual Report states clearly that for year 2010 about 80% of the reduction in demand was from residential users and only about 20% from industrial users. SO, where are the facts to support a 0.8% increase in demand going forward for 57 years when there is only one significant project (Vale) on the horizon, a project whose demand will only bring us about half way back to a peak demand that we already had as far back as 2004? It will take me too long to again go into all of Nalcor's comments in one go. But I will continue to do so as time permits and in 'digestible chunks'. And --- thank you, once again, Mr. Bennett --- for your comments.

  • Terry
    August 12, 2011 - 11:00

    Here are a few facts for those of you to blind or miserly to see the benefits of Muskrat falls. 1(The project will eliminate tons of toxins and co2 from the atmosphere every year. 2( Hydro dams provide stable prices while oil is very volatile. (and will surely rise) 3(When the Churchill falls contract expires we will have an alternate route and not be extorted to sell to Quebec Hydro . Now is the time to build this alternative route,to do otherwise is folly.

  • John Smith
    August 12, 2011 - 09:29

    Mr. Bennett, you should not lower yourself to the level of Mr. Adams. He is just another in a long line of people, who make up facts when reality doesn't suit their needs. Most thinking, rational people understand that our electricity needs are growing, and that we should get off our dependance on oil, and that we should stop the smoke from Holyrood, and that we can sell the excess to the mainland, and that we can stabalize our rates for the next 100 years. Then we have people like Maurice...sad...just sad. I pity you Maurice.

  • Gilbert Bennett
    August 11, 2011 - 20:33

    I'd like to correct some inaccurate statements posted here: 1) Insofar as the accuracy of our hydroelectric production forecasts goes, our forecasts are based on production and flow records spanning many years - in the case of the Churchill River and Bay d'Espoir, records go back over 50 years. We also consider the potential for dry years, and establish production forecasts and storage reserves on that basis. A wet year will invariably result in higher production than forecasted, but one or two years do not make a trend that one can bet the reliability of our electrical system on. 2) Holyrood is not simply a backup facility. It must run during the winter period in order to provide capacity to meet our winter demand, and it is also required to maintain our system voltage on the Avalon Peninsula. Its other role is to provide a source of firm energy to meet energy requirements during dry periods. I acknowledge that we have recently had a couple of wet years that have reduced this role, but as I said, a couple of wet years don't make a long term trend. 3) Our analysis of both scenarios includes all costs, fixed and variable, capital and operating. 4) When Holyrood is operating in synchronous condenser mode, it uses no fuel. Sync condensers are only connected to the electrical system, so any power required to overcome losses is drawn from the grid. We have plenty of information on our web site at www.nalcorenergy.com that may be useful to readers, as well as further discussion on many of these points at www.nalcorleadershipblog.com

  • Gilbert Bennett
    August 11, 2011 - 14:18

    Mr. Adams has made a number of inaccurate statements that I'd like to clarify. Insofar as the accuracy of our hydroelectric production forecasts goes, our forecasts are based on long term production and flow data recorded over many years - in the case of the Churchill River and Bay d'Espoir, records go back over 50 years. We also consider the potential for dry years, and establish production forecasts and reserves on that basis. A wet year will invariably result in higher than forecasted production, but that does not make a trend that one can bet the reliability of our electrical system on. Mr. Adams' statements regarding of the role of Holyrood are inaccurate. Holyrood is not simply a backup facility. It must run during the winter period in order to provide capacity to meet our winter demand, and it is also required to maintain our system voltage on the Avalon Peninsula. Its other role is to provide a source of firm energy to meet requirements during dry periods. I acknowledge that we have recently had a couple of years with higher than average precipitation that have reduced this role, but as I said, a couple of "wet" years don't make a long term trend. Hydro has the responsibility of stewarding both our energy resources and the reliability of our electricity system, so we rely on long term data and appropriate assumptions in our planning. I invite readers who have an interest to visit www.nalcorleadershipblog.com for further discussion on these points.

  • James
    August 11, 2011 - 13:11

    I dont buy it. The mill in in GFW is gone as is the one in Stephenville. The Corner Brook mill is on its way out. With these no longer in operation there is a considerable excess in electricity. There is enough hydro comming out of the exploits station to run a line to Long Hr. with lots left over.

  • Cyril Rogers
    August 11, 2011 - 12:36

    Typical of NALCOR. Stick to the story and don''t let any new developments or facts get in the way. Muskrat Falls will produce the most expensive power, for a hydro project, that we have ever seen. Their figures are overestimated when it fits their message and they dismiss other alternatives too readily. I think it is time for NALCOr and their political masters to take a time out on this project and let there be a real and unbiased review. The PUB, with the time restrictions in place, will not come up with any conclusions until after the deal is supposed to be signed. How is that fair or legitimate?

  • Maurice E. Adams
    August 11, 2011 - 11:46

    So Holyrood has supplied between 15 and 25 percent of of the island's electricity for the past 4 decades? ======== How can that be?======= When the chart (from Nalcor in the print version of the Telegram) shows only 12% as far back as 2000, 10.5% for 2006, 14.3% for 2008, 13.3% for 2009 and 11.5% for 2010? ======= Is this the kind of professional, reliable information, analysis, respect for the public and project forecasting that warrants this province going in debt 4 to 8 or 10 billion more dollars and putting the provinces very financial stability at risk? Do you want to put the future of your children, grand children and their grand children at risk based on this kind of credibility?

    • Back to School
      August 11, 2011 - 19:30

      'Lies, damn lies and statistics'

  • james
    August 11, 2011 - 09:02

    our own government is doing it to us a again thank,s for nothing williams

  • George S
    August 11, 2011 - 08:16

    Wow! Apples to oranges - hey Gil, can we add in the annual operating costs for Muskrat Falls like you did for Holyrood and then compare the costs? Adding the fuel total of $7.2billion to allow the reader to mentally compare that to the $6.0billion in Capital for Muskrat is a little disingenuous? Back up power supply for the Avalon will be Bay d'Espoir. So we are hedging our bets that there will always be sufficient water to power that hydro plant. That's some bet. What are the emission associated with the heavy oil burning synchronous condensor? And can Nalcor guarantee that they will NOT keep Holyrood in hot idle when they figure out Bay d'Espoir is not a good back up supply for 250,000 people and associated industry. Muskrat Falls, on a kilowatt hour basis, is the most expensive power generation project in the history of the world. Awesome! Something else to perpetuate the Newfoundlander joke. Thanks!

    • Jason Callan
      August 15, 2011 - 10:20

      George S. Syncronous condensors do not burn oil - fact Holyrood is the "backup" to Bay d'Espoir not vice versa and to say that Lower Churchill or Bay d'Espoir are main and backup is misleading. There are two redondant power lines between Bay' d'Espoir and the Avalon and I am quite happy with thier reliability. And to say that muskrat falls will be expesive on a per kilowatt hour basis is again misleading. How many people out there realise that those great wind projects often sell thier power to the utility (via FEED programs) at 3 - 4 times the residential rates? IE the wind produced power is bought at 20 cents and sold back to you for 10. because other wise it wouldn't be economical for the private investors to develop. Who would you rather pay your money to? A private company, an oil Cartel or our own publicly owed power utility?

  • Maurice E. Adams
    August 11, 2011 - 07:35

    "Nalcor expects power to steadily increase"???? Nalcor's own numbers show that demand for power has decreaed on averege by more than 2% per year for the past 6 years. How can Nalcor keep saying that? Even with their first forecast model year (2010), they forecast an increase in demand of 85GWh and instead it went down 120 GWH (from Nalcor's own Annual Report). This stuff is outright misleading and should be corrected by a factual followup article by The Telegram. ALSO, Nalcor forecasts and average cost of $384 million a year for Bunker C, when the facts show that even their year 1 (2010) forecast increase in cost was about 150% too high ---- now apply that correction to their 27 year forecast and see what that will do to their $384 million per year, $7.3 billion forecast (to say nothing about the fact that oil has gone down $30/barrel since June). ALSO, to say the plant burns 18,000 barrels per day is misleading in itself, in that it only operates at that level for a few weeks during the winter and with the warmer winters Holyrood, by Nalcor's own numbers, has been operating in recent years at only about 1/3rd what it did 10 years ago (down 60% in 10 years). ALSO , I have a recent email from Nalcor saying that the carbon emissions are about 1/3rd less than 1 million tons. ALSO, other who were around at the time, say that Holyrood was originally built to only be used as back up. Now how can Nalcor say that it would not now be feasible to only use it as backup? Something does'nt make sense. It makes more sense I suppose to build a $6.2 billion Muskrat Falls project on the backs of NL ratepayers --- so that we will have BACKUP????

    • Jason Callan
      August 15, 2011 - 10:30

      I believe that the term "backup" when applied to the operation of the holyrood plant refers to the manner in which it is used to supply power. IE run the hydo plants at full capacity (based on resevoir levels etc) and ramp up and down the oil fired burners as required to make up the excess. So in the winter when demand is high the oil plant runs at near peak, and in the summer when demand is down the plant runs at an "idle". The plant is never completly shut down as is alluded to in the article that shut downs and start up can take many days. So to say that it is a "backup" like a generator that power op your RV is totaly inacurate. It terms of scale and operation.

    • Jason Callan
      August 15, 2011 - 11:31

      I believe that the term "backup" when applied to the operation of the holyrood plant refers to the manner in which it is used to supply power. IE run the hydo plants at full capacity (based on resevoir levels etc) and ramp up and down the oil fired burners as required to make up the excess. So in the winter when demand is high the oil plant runs at near peak, and in the summer when demand is down the plant runs at an "idle". The plant is never completly shut down as is alluded to in the article that shut downs and start up can take many days. So to say that it is a "backup" like a generator that power op your RV is totaly inacurate. It terms of scale and operation.