Clear as mud

Russell Wangersky
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Early last week, Nalcor Energy told the province's Public Utilities Board that it plans a few changes in its dealing with the board. The energy company is now going to have pointman Gilbert Bennett, a Nalcor vice-president, handle the PUB's concerns. Nalcor also lawyered up, telling the PUB in the same Nov. 7 letter that they "also wish to advise the board that Nalcor has recently retained the services of Thomas J. O'Reilly, Q.C. of the law firm, Cox and Palmer, as legal counsel in relation to the Muskrat Falls review process."


More interesting is that Nalcor has agreed to start releasing some of the project documentation that, until now, it has kept secret. Containing what Nalcor calls commercially sensitive material, the information has been filed with the PUB, but blocked from public release.

Now, however, the company will make more of that information available, saying, "We have begun to screen our confidential exhibits and to abridge or redact them to permit public release. ... We agree that completion of this process is important to facilitate public participation in the review process."

But just because the information is being redacted for release, that doesn't mean that whatever's left behind actually constitutes real information.

Take, for example, the budget estimate documents Nalcor filed concerning the possibility of the purchase of a 50 megawatt gas turbine: now, that should contain some fascinating information about generating electricity from natural gas. At least, it contains some fascinating redactions.

From: ***** ******


Date: 07/06/2010 03:09 PM

Subject: RE: New Gas Turbine Plant


My apologies, I spoke too soon about the **** option, remembering after that we had been looking at using only liquid fuel for this facility. Unfortunately, I can't offer *** for use with liquid fuel. I've attached performance runs based on the site elevation used in our previous discussions for the ********* and ******* and ******** and *******. These can all achieve ******* NOx on liquid fuel using ********* for NOx control. The ***** feature will boost power output at ******* if that is what you desire, though as you see from the performance data there is also a *************************. It would be advantageous to determine how often you think you would be using the **** feature, though it does offer a significant power boost at *******. If you have your latest fuel oil specifications, I can use that in the performance model to provide a more specific picture of the output and heat rate you can expect from these units.

The first available shipment for the ******* is ******* and the first available shipment for the ********** is *********. The next availability is *********** for both (based on present orders).

The budgetary price is ********* (US) for the ******** and ******* (US) for the *******.

******* adds approximately ****** to the price of the unit. These prices include ******** for NOx control. I can get ****** pricing, but would need to know what NOx emissions level you plan to achieve

Installation costs can certainly vary depending upon a number of things ***********************. Total installed cost, **********************.

I'd be pleased to discuss this information with you and would also be happy to meet with you at your offices to discuss the latest ********* developments.











Not to put too fine a point on it: Nalcor has argued that natural gas isn't an acceptable option for providing power to the Northeast Avalon, and that Muskrat Falls is the best deal.

But, should you want to consider what kind of gas turbines they might be looking at, you can't know what they were considering buying, what it would cost, what kind of options it offered, what kind of scrubbers it has available, when it can be delivered, what kinds of special pricing are offered, what the total installed costs are, or, for that matter, what or who Nalcor was dealing with in the process.

As open processes go, this certainly seems to be missing a piece or two - it's hard enough to read between the lines, let alone between the redactions.

Russell Wangersky is The Telegram's editorial page editor. Email:

This is a corrected version.

Organizations: Pubic Utilities Board, Gas Turbine, The Telegram

Geographic location: US, Northeast Avalon

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Recent comments

  • David
    November 15, 2011 - 20:44

    This is an ingenious way for the politicians, bureacrats, lawyers, engineering consultants and, of course, the blessed innu to all dip their beaks into the Hibernai money pit and suck on it for years. The land made famous for ir's sporadic 'home-run' swing (and miss) of an economic strategy, instead of slowly, boringly, steadily tapping out a few boring singles to see what might develop. Well, here it finally is --- the bottom of the 9th....let's give 'er one last mighty, eyes-closed swing for the fence...and all you lucky ones: enjoy our money.

  • Maurice E. Complainer
    November 15, 2011 - 18:12

    Wow. 2 articles on muskrat falls and no "John Smith" to the rescue. I see he's been replaced by "Tom White" who makes the save. Well I feel better already.

    • Tom White
      November 16, 2011 - 12:09

      Haha what? Good job on embracing the new title. You and David Vardy - crying for attention. Alzheimer's is knocking on the door.

  • W BAgg
    November 15, 2011 - 15:10

    What competitors Tom White?

    • Tom White
      November 16, 2011 - 12:13

      I used the wrong word, Wally. They are keeping certain information from the public so that they can negotiate properly.

  • William Daniels
    November 15, 2011 - 14:17

    This deals stinks more and more every day. Our money needs to stop going to Nalcor today !!

  • Sick of being treated as brainless subjects
    November 15, 2011 - 10:58

    Yes indeed what is printed above is as Clear as Mud! Are we not willing to learn from our past incompetent dealings on the development of our Natural Resources? The people are saying enough is enough and we want honesty put into the systems that govern our natural resource developments, but it seems those who have their minds set on creatng a legacy for themselves, no matter how bad it is for the province and its people are wanting to forge ahead come Hell or High Water. And yes I have a question on Cost Overruns on any Contract, aren't Cost Overruns like having a licence to print money? The province of Newfoundland and Labrador needs to set up an Anti-corruption Commission, like the Government of Quebec has done which has uncovered a lot of corruption in their Construction Industry!

  • W Bagg
    November 15, 2011 - 09:52

    Contestant 1: "Pat, I'd like to but a vowel, an E" Pat: "Vanna, are there any E's?" Pat: "Sorry no E's just lots of a**es"

  • Cyril Rogers
    November 15, 2011 - 09:29

    This is precisely the problem, Mr. Wangersky. NALCOR wants us to accept its assertions on faith but won't give the public any details as to what the cost of other options would be. It does not tell us if any of these options can be used to boost power production on the island, if needed. Would such gas turbines to be installed at Holyrood, as part of that facility? I do know that gas prices are in the range of an equivalent of about $40 U.S per barrel of oil and there is an abundance of gas so prices are unlikely to rise rapidly for many years yet.

  • Tom White
    November 15, 2011 - 08:52

    Here he goes again! Russell's relentless attack on Nalcor continues. It's okay to be a critic, but this seems like a full blown disease. Calm down, Russell. Write something positive about the company. They are normal people working in normal jobs. They are not Al-Qaeda. They are withholding certain information to keep information from competitors - it is not a tactic to misinform the "open line" crowd. "Open line" and The Telegram can take care of the misinformation part. I should take this chance to say hello to Maurice E. Complainer. I'm sure he's posted here already.

  • fintip
    November 15, 2011 - 08:29

    Agreed. There can be no legitimate purpose for refusing to disclose what is essentially a quote on equipment required for upgrading Holyrood from low grade oils to LNG. The PUB, and if necessary the courts, should decide what if any redactions are justified. Although I have not yet read any of the documents posted, it appears that the message being sent by this particular redaction is that NALCOR wishes to complicate any effort by intervenors and/or the general public to question NALCOR's asertion that Muskrat is cheaper than converting Holyrood to gas. I don't think strategies of this type will succeed. They will only cast further doubt on the integrity of the review process.

  • Scott Free
    November 15, 2011 - 07:52

    NALCOR has become the lovechild of that secret society known as the Tory Party of NL.