News digest

Canada: A design flaw at the Pickering B nuclear power plant in Ontario, Canada, that was highlighted by the August 2003 blackout, will cost Ontario Power Generation (OPG) C$100m ($73m) to fix. The company will install new backup generators at the plant to enable it to continue operating its own control systems, communications network and emergency shutdown systems in the event of a general power failure.

Colombia: The government of Colombia has announced that it will sell a 19 per cent stake in the ISA transmission company in 2004. The sale will reduce the government’s stake from 59 per cent to 40 per cent

Mexico: Some 18 companies have bought bidding rules from Mexico’s state power company CFE for the construction of the 1135 MW Tamazunchale thermal power plant in San Luís Potosí state. The project involves the construction, maintenance and operation of the $500m plant, which will sell power to CFE under a 25-year contract.

Uruguay: The Uruguay state electricity company, UTE, has received four bids from Fiat Engineering Do Brasil, GE, Alstom and one other company for a turnkey contract to build a 400 MW combined cycle power plant in San José department, which is 20 km from Montevideo.

USA: Officials at Alstom have announced that it is participating in a US Department of Energy (DOE) project to develop and verify a novel hybrid combustion-gasification chemical looping concept for ultra-clean, low-cost, high efficiency coal fired power generation. The company has already completed engineering studies and bench-scale tests that indicate that the chemical looping process has the potential to meet ultra-clean low emissions targets, and is now carrying out pilot scale tests.

USA: Progress Energy has become the first utility in the USA to achieve 120 per cent of its original licensed thermal power at a boiling water reactor nuclear power plant. The achievement was made at the Brunswick Unit 1 reactor following completion of an extended power uprate project which added over 100 MW of capacity.

USA: Alabama Power Company, a subsidiary of Southern Company, has awarded a $100m turnkey contract to Westinghouse Electric to replace the reactor vessel heads on Units 1 and 2 of the Joseph M. Farley nuclear plant. The work will involve offloading, disassembly, reassembly, and transport of the reactor heads, rigging and handling inside the containment building, plant modifications and refuelling activities.

Argentina unveils energy plan

Argentina’s government has unveiled a new plan for the country’s ailing energy sector. The plan is designed to bring an end to the country’s current energy crisis and includes $3.8bn of investment and the creation of a new state controlled company, Energía Argentina (Enarsa).

The country’s president, Nestor Kirchner, outlined a number of specific projects to boost generation and transmission capacity, increase supplies of natural gas, and will make a call for bids for the supply of 500 MW from Brazil. The country has already introduced power rationing for certain sectors of the economy.

Power sector projects outlined include raising the water levels of the Yacyreta hydropower plant to provide an extra 360 MW by April 2005, interconnecting the wholesale market (MEM) with the Patagonian wholesale market (MEMSP), expanding the country’s transmission grid (Sadi), and completing the 692 MW Atucha II nuclear power plant.

To finance the investment, export tariffs on crude oil, LPG and gasoline will be raised.

Proinfa attracts 6600 MW

Demand for projects under Brazil’s Proinfa alternative energy programme has exceeded expectations, with 6600 MW of capacity submitted and just 3300 MW of projects available. Projects to be included in the incentive programme will be selected on the basis of their technical and economic viability, according to the country’s mines and energy ministry (MME).

Eletrobrás, Brazil’s federal power holding company, will choose around 3300 MW of projects, divided equally between wind, biomass and small hydro projects. These projects will sign 20-year power purchase agreements with Eletrobrás, and will be offered financing below local market rates from national development bank BNDES.

Projects submitted for Proinfa include 3600 MW of wind capacity, 1900 MW of small hydro and just under 1000 MW of biomass capacity. According to the MME, Proinfa will allow Brazil to double the amount of power produced from renewable energy to 5.9 per cent of its energy mix.

Powerspan teams up with DOE

Powerspan Corp. and the US Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) have entered into a cooperative research and development agreement to develop a cost effective carbon dioxide (CO2) removal process for coal based power plants. The removal process is expected to be integrated with Powerspan’s multi-pollutant control technology, called Electro-Catalytic Oxidation (ECO).

The scope of the three-year agreement includes laboratory testing, pilot testing and detailed studies of the CO2 capture process economics. The regenerative process uses an ammonia solution to capture CO2 in flue gas and release it for subsequent sequestration. The ammonia solution is then recycled.

PacifiCorp to develop CCGT

ScottishPower subsidiary PacifiCorp is planning to construct a new 534 MW natural gas fired combined cycle power plant near Salt Lake City, Utah. The cost of the plant – named Lake Side – is expected to be approximately $330m.

PacifiCorp will enter into an asset purchase and sales agreement with Summit Vineyard LLC of Denver, Colorado, to develop the project. Siemens Westinghouse will construct the plant.

PacifiCorp selected the Lake Side project as the best option from 53 offers submitted in response to a request for new baseload resources to be on line in the summer of 2007. The utility will operate the new plant.

CDC buys Bolivian stake

CDC Globeleq has completed the acquisition of Bolivian power company Compania Boliviana de Energia Electrica (COBEE) from NRG Energy. The company has also sold stakes in two other power companies in central and south America. COBEE is one of the largest generation companies in Bolivia, serving the capital of La Paz with a total capacity of 204 MW. Its strong position in the market makes the company an “excellent fit”, according to Robert Hart, CDC’s CEO.

Oil sand gasification power project to be set up in Canada

GE Energy has been selected to supply equipment for an integrated gasification/cogeneration plant being constructed near Fort McMurray, Alberta. The plant is being constructed as part of the Long Lake project, the fourth major integrated oil sand project in Alberta.

Long Lake is a joint venture between Nexen Inc. and OPTI Canada Ltd. Oil extracted from the oil sands will be upgraded using OPTI’s patented OrCrude process to produce a heavy liquid asphaltene product. This will then be gasified to produce a syngas which will fuel the power plant.

GE will supply two Frame 7EA gas turbine generators, technical advisory services for field installation and unit training.