Hydro hiring consultant on Holyrood fuel system

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Ashley Fitzpatrick
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So-called ‘dirty fuel’ problems detailed in filing to regulator

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro will hire a consultant to look at the fuel system at the Holyrood power plant, according to a filing made to the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities (PUB) Friday.

A consultant will be hired to examine the fuel system at Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro’s Holyrood generating station.
— Telegram file photo

The consultant will be asked to, “review Holyrood’s fuel system and equipment design to evaluate the current fuel specification and determine what changes, if any, are required.”

This is despite the fact the system is set to be decommissioned in about six years, under the province’s Lower Churchill Project plan, as Holyrood will no longer be used to generate power.

No estimate is yet available for how much the consultant might cost.

Hydro says the consultant is needed after equipment failures and two fuel spills at the plant, all caused by the use of so-called “dirty fuel” that was delivered there in January and February 2013.

The label of “dirty fuel” has been used by former MHA Danny Dumaresque, who is now an intervener in several matters before the PUB and who, in March, publicly raised the question of the cost of damage caused by the fuel delivered, after it was accepted by Hydro from supplier Trafigura AG.

At the time of his public statements on the fuel supply in early 2013, Dumaresque also claimed it caused the failure of a generator at the plant and a wide-reaching blackout on the island power system in January of that year.

The Telegram has yet to see evidence connecting the problem with the fuel system to the — now extensively documented — 2013 failure.

That said, Hydro has admitted at least $1 million in repairs were required at the plant due to equipment problems relating to the delivered fuel.

“Even though fuel oil supplied by Trafigura AG was in compliance with the fuel specification contained in the contract, the fuel oil that was delivered contained levels of silicon and aluminium that increased the erosion of the fuel system equipment. Unusual residue build‐up in tanks, heaters, strainers and burners indicated there were also concerns with the fuel stability,” Hydro told the PUB.

Following the fuel deliveries, the power plant was hit with operational and maintenance problems.

They included two fuel spills, caused by premature wear on tubes connected to two fuel tanks at the site.

“The affected equipment included: the main fuel oil tank suction heaters, the fuel oil day tank, the fuel oil suction strainers, the fuel oil pumps, the fuel oil heat exchangers, the fuel oil recirculation and control valves and the boiler burner nozzles,” Hydro stated.

“Fuel quality was a contributor to premature failures on the aforementioned operating equipment.”

After the fuel problems hit, Hydro went to its supplier and asked for a change in the fuel being delivered to the site. Subsequent deliveries have had reduced levels of silicon and aluminium, according to the utility.

“Fuel that does not meet the quality required can be refused before arrival at Holyrood,” Hydro has noted.

That said, the submission to the PUB states while the supplier agreed to reducing the levels of aluminum and silicon, it has not committed to a specific limit for either.

The PUB submission includes a schedule, set by Hydro, for finalizing any changes to fuel specifications by the end of this year, meaning fairly quick work by whatever consultant might be hired.

For his part, Dumaresque said he is pleased with the filing, as it clearly acknowledges the trouble caused by the fuel shipments and that “everything wasn’t wonderful.”

“The taxpayers are out over a million dollars because of not (doing) due diligence in the beginning, but maybe we are on the path to seeing it conform to the quality it should have,” he said.

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

Geographic location: Holyrood

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