HomeWorld RegionsAustralasiaAsbestos discovery in turbines threatens Victoria's summer electricity supply

Asbestos discovery in turbines threatens Victoria’s summer electricity supply

A cloud hangs over Victoria’s summer power supplies once again following the discovery of asbestos in two gas-turbine generators under construction writes Rod Myer in Australia’s The Age newspaper today.

The discoveries in the second-hand plants being assembled by Australian Gas Light (AGL) and Edison Mission threaten to push back completion dates, leaving Victoria’s power supplies below safety reserve levels over the summer.

A spokesman for Edison Mission, which is building a 300 MW gas-fired station on the site of its Loy Yang B generator in the Latrobe Valley, confirmed yesterday that asbestos had been discovered in several turbines. The affected machines are now going through a rehabilitation process involving the removal or containment of all asbestos.

Asbestos was “not uncommon in machines of this age (25 years)”, the spokesman said. “The asbestos was discovered when we started to pull the machines apart.”

The discovery was not likely to put back the construction timetable, he said. “We’re on a pretty aggressive schedule, which means we gained a bit of time and we’re probably just back on schedule now.”

An AGL spokesman also confirmed yesterday that asbestos had been found in one of the turbines it was installing at Somerton, in Melbourne’s north. But that asbestos had been removed and would not hold up construction.

Last Friday, the National Electricity Market Management Company said it expected Victoria would have adequate power supplies over summer if the AGL and Edison plants were completed by December and February respectively.

AGL said yesterday delays caused by union bans and environmental protests had held up construction of a gas pipeline and the plant was unlikely to be completed until late January, placing the state’s power supplies on a knife edge for a period earlier in the month.

If the presence of asbestos does delay the construction of the Edison plant, the danger period will last through February, when heat waves often plague the state, leaving open the possibility of blackouts.

An AGL spokesman said contractors had laid the gas line to its Somerton plant across the Merri Creek over the weekend, overcoming the biggest risk to completion of the generator for summer.

The creek-crossing works ran the risk of disturbing the mating season of a rare frog if they were carried out over the summer breeding period. Environmental guidelines would have banned construction until late January if the creek crossing had not been completed by October 15.