News digest

Canada: TransAlta Corp. began commercial operation of its new 440 MW gas fired facility at its Sarnia Regional Cogeneration plant located in Sarnia, Ontario. The new facility is integrated with a 135 MW facilitiy which TransAlta acquired last year.

Chile: Chile’s largest energy generator, Endesa Chile agreed to sell its Canutillar hydroelectric plant to Chile’s Matte group for $174m. Endesa officials said it approved the offer for Canutillar made by Sociedad Hidroelectrica Guardia Veja which is owned by the Matte Group.

Mexico: Alstom has been awarded a 12-year operation support maintenance contract for the 1000 MW Monterrey III gas-fired combined-cycle power plant in Mexico. The contract was placed by Iberdrola Energia Monterrey.

USA: GE Aero Energy Products will supply one LM6000 Sprint gas turbine to be used for peaking by Brownsville Public Utilities Board in Texas.

USA: The Kenny Alliance announced that it has signed a contract with PacifiCorp to serve as the EPC contractor for the Wasatch Front Quantum Leap Projects. The objective is to improve the capacity and reliability of the PacifiCorp T&D system in Salt Lake City from Provo to Ogden, Utah.

USA: Calpine corp.. announced that it has entered into a long-term power sales agreement with Southern California Edison calling for the delivery of 200 MW of base load renewable energy. Delivery will begin by the end of the second quarter of 2003.

USA: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has fined Williams $20m, the largest civil penalty it has ever issued, for using anti-competitive practices barred by law. Williams agreed to pay the fine over four years.

USA: Dynegy announced an agreement to sell its North American communications business to an affiliate of 360networks Corp., a provider of data telecommunications services. Under the terms of the deal, 360networks will acquire Dynegy’s entire North American communication operations.

USA: GE Hydro received a contract of more than $7m to upgrade and install two generators at the Jaybird Hydroelectric Powerhouse in northern California. The 154 MW Jaybird facility is owned by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

Uruguay: Uruguay’s Energy & Mines Ministry has suspended the start up of the wholesale market until May from the scheduled March 17 date. This is because the body to manage operations, ADME, has not yet been appointed.

US to develop new generation coal fired plant

The US Department of Energy has detailed plans to construct a new generation of coal fired power plant that emits virtually no carbon dioxide.

Coal fuel is used by more than half of the power industry in the US to produce electricity and is projected to last more than 250 years. Secretary of Energy, Spencer Abraham, plans to build a $1 billion proto-type that will use coal to liberate a hydrogen-rich gas rather than burning it directly. The gas could then be burned in a gas turbine or used in a fuel cell. The project, dubbed FutureGen, is claimed to cost no more than ten per cent of the usual cost of running a coal-fired plant.

Abraham made his intentions clear that the pilot project ‘will see the light of day’ with or without international support. But naturally, outside financial aid would be welcome. The US is seeking international partners and has so far contacted 20 coal-rich nations, including Australia and China.

The aim will be to capture at least 90 per cent of the plant’s carbon dioxide which would be injected underground. Once entrapped, the greenhouse gas would be permanently isolated from the atmosphere.

Fuel cell projects gain momentum

A joint venture project between Ontario Power Generation and Siemens Westinghouse will demonstrate the world’s biggest solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) power plant.

The University of Toronto at Mississauga (UTM) will be the site of the unit, where it will be incorporated into the existing physical plant at UTM. Obvious advantages of the technology include high energy efficiency and virtually no emissions.

Meanwhile, Caterpillar and FuelCell Energy are close to winning a contract to install a fuel cell power plant designed to feed power from a substation into a local electric distribution system. The $100m project is part of a three-year initiative to expand fuel cell research and development, including increased fuel cell generating capacity in Ohio.

Caterpillar dealer Holt Power Systems Ohio is expected to make the sale to American Municipal Power-Ohio, which is managing the fuel cell generation project on behalf of the city of Westerville in Columbus, Ohio.

Concerns over Brazil power sector

Investors have been put off from investing more than $1bn in Brazil’s power sector as companies wait for the new government’s stance.

Grid operator, ONS, caused more concern by predicting that the surplus in power, estimated at 10 GW, is likely to expire within 3.5 years.

But Alexandre Silveira, financial director of state-owned power company Eletrobras, played down concerns mentioning other projects in the pipeline. He said that Eletrobras’ priority for the coming year is the addition of two new turbines at Itaipu.

Mexico feels the power squeeze

Mexico is making efforts to avoid a power crisis caused by low rainfall. To make matters worse, state oil monopoly Pemex has cut its gas supplies to the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) because natural gas demands for the country could not be met

To combat the shortages CFE will use more oil and work on maintenance programmes in vital electricity plants. A recent contract won by Voith Siemens Hydro Power Generation to install three hydroelectric plants with a total capacity of 60 MW for Comex Hidro will also help.

USA grid merger plans grind to a halt

Plans discussed since 2001 to merge two major grid operators in the US have been dropped due to lack of commitment from supplers to the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) region.

The Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator (Midwest ISO) and the SPP told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) they were cancelling the merger.

State power regulators from the south, west and New England have criticised FERC’s plan, warning that it could increase electricity rates for uility customers.

The decision now means that FERC will have to piece together the country’s system of regional power grids in order to reduce wholesale electricity prices, strengthen the reliability of the grid, and build new capacity to meet rising demand.

The Midwest ISO grid has 122 GW of generating capacity and more than 178 600 km of transmission lines in 15 states and part of Canada., while the SPP provides power to more than 4m customers in eight states.