OPG extending Pickering nuclear plant life, shuts latest coal unit

Ontario Power Generation (OPG), as it works it way through the final months of operation for its coal-fired power plants, is working on a number of power generation projects.

In the first quarter of 2013, OPG continued with improvements to the planning, execution, monitoring and reporting of outage work at its nuclear operations to reduce costs and increase generation. The planned outage programs at Pickering Units 5 to 8 over the next five years reflect OPG’s objective of extending the operating lives of these units for an additional four to six years, OPG said in a May 16 financial report. Pickering Generating Station (GS) performed well during the first quarter of 2013 with the exception of Unit 1, which had an extended outage during the quarter. The unit was returned to service in April. Darlington also performed well during the quarter.

With the consideration of current and future market conditions, OPG said it continues to evaluate and implement plans to increase capacity and maintain the hydroelectric assets. In March, the Niagara Tunnel was completed and declared in-service which will increase annual generation from the Sir Adam Beck plant by providing an additional water diversion capacity of approximately 500 cubic meters per second. In addition, OPG completed a runner upgrade and generator rewind at Unit 1 of the Des Joachims plant during the first quarter of 2013.

In March 2013, the provincial Ministry of Energy issued a declaration mandating that OPG cease the use of coal at the Nanticoke and Lambton plants by the end of 2013. The Contingency Support Agreement with the Ontario Electricity Financial Corp. (OEFC) has also been amended. The amendment allows for OPG to continue to recover actual costs that cannot reasonably be avoided or mitigated during the period from the advanced shutdown date up to the end of 2014. The amended agreement terms are expected to be triggered by the OEFC in 2013.

During the first quarter of 2013, OPG said that it and the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) executed the Reliability Must Run contract for one unit at the Thunder Bay, for January 2013 through December 2013. The contract is subject to the Ontario Energy Board’s (OEB) approval. Since the capacity from a second unit at the Thunder Bay GS is not required by the IESO, Unit 2 was removed from the IESO market on March 14.

Doomed coal plants actually ran a bit harder in the first quarter

During the first quarter of 2013, there were no significant changes to environmental legislation and environmental risks affecting OPG. In the first quarter, CO2 emissions from OPG’s coal-fired stations were 1.34 million tonnes, compared to 1.14 million tonnes for the same period in 2012. Acid gas (SO2 and NOx) emissions were 4.9 gigagrams for the first quarter of this year and 4.5 gigagrams for the year-ago quarter. CO2 and acid gas emissions increased during the first three months of 2013 compared to the same period in 2012 as a result of increased generation from OPG’s coal-fired stations.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) issued a decision on the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the refurbishment of the Darlington GS nuclear facility on March 14, confirming that, taking into account the identified mitigation measures, Darlington refurbishment and continued operations are not likely to cause significant environmental effect. The EA was subsequently challenged in April by way of judicial review in the Federal Court of Canada, on the grounds that the EA failed to comply with requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and that the hearing deprived the applicants certain procedural rights.

The Darlington Refurbishment project is currently in the definition phase. In March, the turbine generator contract for equipment supply and technical services was awarded to Alstom Power and Transport Canada Inc. The contract is valued at approximately C$350m and contains suspension and termination provisions.

In March 2013, the 10.2-kilometer tunnel at Niagara Tunnel was completed and declared in-service, approximately nine months ahead of the approved project completion date of December 2013. This additional water diversion capacity of approximately 500 cubic meters per second will increase annual generation from the Sir Adam Beck GS by an average of approximately 1.5 TWh, depending on water flow. Total costs of the project are being finalized and are expected to be about C$1.5bn, compared to the approved budget of C$1.6bn.

At Lower Mattagami, in December 2012, there was a breach in one section of the recently installed cofferdam at the Kipling site. All other cofferdams on the project have been inspected and it has been determined that they are safe. OPG noted that it has finalized and executed a remediation plan regarding the cofferdam breach at the Kipling site and construction activity resumed at the Kipling site in May. This remediation plan is not expected to impact the project schedule and budget. The project is still expected to be completed on plan by June 2015 within the approved budget of C$2.6bn.

As of March 31, OPG’s electricity generating portfolio had an in-service capacity of 19,051 MW. OPG operates three nuclear generating stations, five thermal generating stations, 65 hydroelectric generating stations, and two wind power turbines. In addition, OPG and TransCanada Energy Ltd. co-own the Portlands Energy Centre (PEC) gas-fired combined cycle station. OPG and ATCO Power Canada Ltd. co-own the Brighton Beach gas-fired combined cycle GS. OPG also owns two other nuclear generating stations, which are leased on a long-term basis to Bruce Power LP.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.