Guatemala plant ready for orimulsion

Finnish engine manufacturer Wartsila has announced that a 150 MW diesel engine power plant it has developed in Guatemala is ready to start operating using orimulsion as fuel. The plant is currently operating on heavy fuel oil, and will become the first plant of its kind in the world to run on orimulsion.

The $131m plant consists of 15 Wartsila 18V46 engines and includes a desulphurization unit and electrostatic precipitator equipment to control emissions. Wartsila is now waiting for the go-ahead from the plant owner before converting it to run on orimulsion.

Wartsila has spent six years developing and testing the orimulsion-burning technology. It believes such plants to be commercially viable in spite of the additional emission control and waste disposal equipment.

News digest

Brazil: The mines and energy ministry is to set up a study group to analyse the local power sector’s debt levels. The government is concerned that utilities’ debts may hinder the quality of their power services, and wants to impose limits on their debt.

Canada: GE Hydro is to replace four turbine runners at Manitoba Hydro’s Pointe du Bois generating station in order to increase the output of the plant. The hydropower plant – built in the early 1900s – is the oldest plant still in operation on the Winnipeg River.

Dominican Republic: Caterpillar Power Ventures has started operating a 100 MW power project in Puerto Viejo, Dominican Republic. The new plant will be operated and maintained by Energy International.

Ecuador: The E7 group of energy companies has announced plans to install a wind power plant on San Christobal Island in the Galapagos Archipelago. The project team is being led by American Electric Power (AEP), and is undertaking the project as part of the United Nations Development Programme’s Renewable Energy Programme.

Mexico: A US federal judge has ruled that the US Department of Energy acted illegally in determining that two power plants in Mexicali, Mexico, would not significantly affect air and water quality in the US. The ruling calls into question the permits granted for the construction of power lines from the plants to California, and could jeopardize plans for further plants in the Mexicali region.

USA: VRB Power Systems Inc has successfully completed the first phase of testing of its VRB/ESS energy storage system at an installation in Mohab, Utah. The system consists of a 250 kW x 8 h energy storage module connected to a 25 kV rural feeder providing voltage support and power flow control.

USA: Vericor Power Systems has opened a new ASE8 overhaul and repair facility in Harvey, La., USA. The facility will offer full aftermarket support for Vericor’s fleet of ASE8 aeroderivative gas turbines, including spare parts, field service, repair and overhaul services and long term maintenance contracts.

USA: Dominion Virginia Power Co. has agreed to spend $1.2bn to reduce pollution from eight plants in West Virginia and Virginia in the largest settlement ever made with a utility under the USA’s clean air laws. The company will also pay a $5.5m fine, and must complete the emission reduction programme at its plants by 2013.

Venezuela: Alstom has won a contract to construct the 514 MW. $160m La Vueltosa hydropower project in Venezuela. The is scheduled to be completed in 2006.

Pressure on AES

Brazilian National Bank of Economic and Social Development (BNDES) is expecting US power company AES to make partial payments on its overdue electricity sector debts. It has said that it will not accept stakes in local AES assets as payment or in exchange for lengthening of the debt.

AES and BNDES have been in talks since January, when the US company first defaulted on a loan payment to the bank in respect of its purchase of Eletropaulo Metropolitana, Latin America’s largest power distributor. The default gives the bank the right to foreclose on this asset – a move that the Brazilian government wants to avoid for fear of deterring future investors.

Meanwhile, AES is to be investigated over allegations that it colluded with Enron to rig the 1998 privatization of Eletropaulo. It is thought that the collusion ultimately allowed an AES consortium pick up Eletropaulo cheaply.

California heads for re-regulation

A California bill that proposes the re-regulation of the state’s electricity market has been amended to allow electricity consumers to choose their own suppliers. Senate Bill 888 by Sen. Joe Dunn (D-Santa Ana) had originally proposed the end of consumer choice – known as direct access.

Bill 888 seeks to move California’s electricity market away from wholesale power trading and towards long-term bilateral contracts. It essentially repeals the state’s 1996 deregulation law, which has been cited as a main cause of the 2000-2001 California energy crisis.

The bill would encourage electric utilities to sign long-term contracts and to build their own power plants with guaranteed cost recovery.

Direct access was suspended after the state’s energy crisis, which was marked by blackouts and high electricity prices.

LIPA makes world first with superconductors

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has selected American Superconductor Corporation to be the prime contractor for a high temperature superconductor (HTS) power transmission cable project in Long Island, New York. The 0.6 km cable will be installed in the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) power grid and will be the world’s first installation of a superconductor cable in a live grid at transmission voltages.

The 600 MW, 138 kV cable system is expected to be operating by the end of 2005. Nexans will manufacture the cable and the cryogenic insulation system for the $30m project.

IFC supports Transelec

Chile’s main electricity transmission company, Transelec, is to benefit from a $60m investment from the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Transelec is planning to expand and upgrade its network in order to provide grid access to new generating plants. The investment will also support plans to develop interconnections with other transmission systems in Chile and with neighbouring countries.

Coal links up with wind in Montana

Great Northern Power Development (GNPD) and Kiewit Mining Group are preparing to file applications for permits for a $900m coal and wind power project in eastern Montana, USA. The project will consist of a mine-mouth coal fired power plant and an adjacent wind farm with a combined installed capacity of 500 MW.

The two companies plan to use circulating fluidized bed boiler technology for the coal plant. They believe that the linking of coal with wind will provide unique advantages: the coal plant will support the necessary upgrades to the transmission grid, while the wind farm will improve the environmental performance of the overall project.