No talk yet of compensation for power problems
While many individual residents, small businesses and larger commercial enterprises in Newfoundland began to normalize their schedules Tuesday — tentatively putting power problems into their rear view — the same could not be said of the island’s largest power consumers.
A collection of key players in the provincial economy, companies with assets in the hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars, are still reviewing the status of their operations in Newfoundland and trying to bring them back online in the wake if both recent unplanned power outages on the island and direct requests by the provincial power utilities to forego production, for the sake of island residents.
During a news conference at Confederation Building in St. John’s, Nalcor Energy president and CEO Ed Martin was twice asked when the industrial customers — including Vale, North Atlantic Refining and Teck Resources — would be back online and allowed to run up to their normal level of power use.
Martin refused to state any timelines.
“So we’re working closely with the industrial customers. Once again, certainly in a different league from the residential, from the people. You know ... I can’t say how much we regret what’s happening. We understand the hardship for the people of the province. That’s the primary focus. On the commercial side, it’s also an issue and we regret that as well,” he said.
He later re-stated regret for the inconveniences being experienced by the affected mining and oil companies.
In Long Harbour, Vale is continuing some construction work but, perhaps most importantly, starting to bring online it’s new multibillion-dollar hydromet processing facility for nickel, copper and cobalt.
The site was effectively shut down prior to the Christmas holiday, with many construction workers expected back on the job Monday, according to Bob Carter, a spokesman for Vale Newfoundland and Labrador.
“We did lose power at the site and that did affect our ability to resume normal operations Monday,” he said.
Power required for construction was restored late that afternoon, but inspections had to be undertaken on all the site buildings.
“As a result of that we did not bring people to the site today with the exception of those required for essential services,” he said, speaking with The Telegram Tuesday afternoon.
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Arrangements are now being made to get workers on the job again, he added, with the construction and normal operations expected to be set back four or five days as a result of the power outages, assuming the news on power supply stays positive.
Similarly, the Come By Chance oil refinery was shut down by the power problems over the weekend. Attempts are being made to bring the refinery back online this week, according to reports.
It will be the second, sudden, unplanned shutdown of that facility in as many years due to power problems.
A spokeswoman for ExxonMobil is expected to provide an update on the power situation for the Hebron offshore oil platform work at Bull Arm later today. The information will be posted with this story at thetelegram.com as it becomes available.
While Corner Brook Pulp and Paper has been praised by government for its co-operation with the province’s power utilities, it also has marked effects on business.
“(Monday) night we were talking and temperatures were coming down and they had some commercial needs so we made a switch around and made sure they’re getting what (power) they need,” Martin said.
At the same time, the company has cut back production at times upon request.
In the case of all industrial customers, financial compensation may be sought, adding to the overall cost to the province for the power outages.
If nothing else, Corner Brook Pulp and Paper will be paid for power it provided to help meet unprecedented demand in the midst of technical difficulties with Hydro’s power generators.
No details on that power purchase arrangement have been made public.
Martin said firming up supply for industry will be dependent on when switchyard troubles at the Holyrood power plant can be resolved.