Ontario Power Gen adds new hydro, biomass capacity since June

Since the end of the second quarter in 2014, Ontario Power Generation has declared three generating assets to be in-service.

They are:

  • Lower Mattagami hydro – The first 89-MW unit at the new Smoky Falls Generating Station (GS) was declared in-service on Sept. 30, ahead of its original target completion date of November 2014. The second 89-MW unit was declared in-service in October, ahead of the original target completion date of January 2015, and the remaining unit at the Smoky Falls GS is expected to be declared in-service in November 2014.
  • Atikokan Biomass Conversion – In August, OPG obtained final approval from the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) and has declared the Atikokan GS in Commercial Operation, effective as of July 24. The converted coal station has a capacity of 205 MW and is the largest generating station in North America fueled by 100% biomass.


In consideration of current and future market conditions and the related revenue mechanisms, OPG said in a Nov. 14 financial report that it continues to evaluate and implement plans to increase capacity, maintain performance, and extend the operating life of its hydroelectric assets. During the third quarter of 2014, OPG completed major equipment overhauls and rehabilitation work on Unit 11 of the R.H. Saunders GS and a transformer bank replacement at the Pine Portage GS. Rehabilitation work on Unit 3 of the Sir Adam Beck Pump GS and Unit 1 of the Lower Notch GS continues.

In April 2014, OPG ended all coal-fired operations as all existing coal inventory was utilized in the last coal-fired unit at the Thunder Bay GS. With the end of coal-fired generation at the Nanticoke GS and the Lambton GS in 2013, OPG continues to preserve the option to convert these stations to natural gas and/or biomass in the future. OPG is seeking recovery of ongoing costs to preserve the option to convert the units. If recovery is not allowed, OPG said it will consider all options regarding the future of these stations, including full closure and decommissioning.

OPG is pursuing several generation development projects. The major projects include the Darlington Refurbishment, new hydroelectric generation and plant expansions, and the conversion of coal-fired units to alternative fuels.

Darlington rehab an expensive feature of OPG’s future plans

The Darlington Refurbishment is a multi-phase program comprised of individual projects of various scales and sizes. In particular, the project consists of the following five major project work packages:


  • Retube and Feeder Replacement
  • Turbines and Generators
  • Defueling and Fuel Handling
  • Steam Generators
  • Balance of Plant.


The Darlington Refurbishment project is currently in the definition phase. Refurbishment of the four Darlington nuclear units is currently estimated to cost less than the C$10bn high confidence estimate in 2013 dollars, excluding capitalized interest and escalation. A detailed schedule and budget for the refurbishment of the four units is expected to be completed in 2015. There are 18 pre-requisite projects currently underway at Darlington that are to be completed in advance of the execution phase of the Darlington Refurbishment project. OPG has implemented a collaborative front-end planning process that integrates OPG’s engineering oversight with each vendor’s engineering studio. This has resulted in significant improvements in the quality and timeliness of engineering deliverables.

The Heavy Water Storage and Drum Handling Facility, one of Darlington’s 18 pre-requisite projects, is required to store heavy water from the Darlington units during refurbishment. Construction challenges have resulted in schedule delays and cost growth in this portion of the project as a result of difficulties in completing work which includes temporary construction barriers, temporary bracing, anchors, and dewatering equipment. OPG is implementing a revised plan to mitigate the construction complexities and schedule risks, including contingency plans to avoid potential impacts on the Darlington Refurbishment project schedule. The Retube and Feeder Replacement project is the largest work package of the Darlington Refurbishment project and represents a majority of the critical path schedule. A significant part of this project is the development of tooling prototypes and systems to simulate inspection tasks and precise sequencing of work prior to commencing work on the reactor.

On Sept. 30, 2014, a significant step towards completion of tooling delivery was made with the installation of the first retube platform at the mock-up facility located at the Darlington Energy Complex. Prototype testing has commenced on the retube platform. The remaining major project work packages, including Turbines and Generators, Defueling and Fuel Handing, and Steam Generators are on schedule. All preliminary engineering is complete for the Turbines and Generators project. Defueling detailed design is nearing completion on the Defueling and Fuel Handling project. Detailed engineering is progressing on track to meet detailed design completion on the Steam Generators project. Contracts for Balance of Plant projects are in the process of being issued in order to complete detailed design.

OPG submitted the Integrated Implementation Plan (IIP) to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commision (CNSC) in December 2013, for which the CNSC provided feedback in April 2014. OPG is working on the closure of gaps identified in the IIP and has requested CNSC staff acceptance by the end of 2014. 


The Darlington generating units are currently forecasted to reach their end of lives between 2019 and 2020, based on original design assumptions. The refurbishment of the Darlington Nuclear GS is expected to extend its operating life by approximately 30 years.

Darlington, Pickering get recognition from CNSC

In August 2014, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission presented its Staff Integrated Safety Assessment of Canadian Nuclear Power Plants for 2013. Darlington Nuclear GS achieved the highest possible safety and control rating, its fifth consecutive excellent performance evaluation. Pickering Nuclear GS also received positive safety and control ratings from the CNSC staff, with improved performance recognized in the areas of radiation protection and security.

During the third quarter of 2014, Unit 7 of the Pickering Nuclear GS commenced a planned maintenance outage.

In December 2013, OPG submitted a licence renewal application for the Darlington Nuclear GS that would span the refurbishment period. The hearing dates for the licence renewal application have not been scheduled but are expected to take place in August and November 2015. The existing licence for the station expires on Dec. 31, 2015.

As of Sept. 30, 2014, OPG’s electricity generation portfolio had an in-service capacity of 16,958 MW. OPG operates two nuclear generating stations, three thermal generating stations, 65 hydroelectric generating stations, and two wind power turbines. OPG also continues to preserve the option to convert two thermal generating stations to natural gas and/or biomass. In addition, OPG and TransCanada Energy Ltd. co-own the 550-MW Portlands Energy Centre gas-fired combined cycle station. OPG and ATCO Power Canada Ltd. co-own the 560-MW Brighton Beach gas-fired combined cycle GS.

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.