Ontario Power Gen works on several projects, including Darlington refurbishment

Ontario Power Generation said in a May 22 quarterly earnings report that it is advancing several power projects, including a refurbishment of the Darlington nuclear plant and rehab work on several hydroelectric facilities.

OPG said it continues to make investments to improve the performance of the nuclear Pickering Generating Station (GS) through to 2020, with a focus on implementing equipment modifications and fuel handling reliability improvements, reducing equipment maintenance backlogs, and completing critical and high priority work.

Planning activities continued to progress during the first quarter of 2015 in preparation for the Vacuum Building Outage scheduled to be performed at the Darlington GS in the latter half of 2015. In December 2013, OPG submitted a licence renewal application to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) for the Darlington GS that would span the planned refurbishment period. The hearing dates for the licence renewal application have been scheduled for August and November 2015. The existing licence for the Darlington GS station expires on Dec. 31, 2015.

During 2015, OPG is hosting two World Association of Nuclear Operator peer evaluations for the Pickering GS and for OPG’s support functions. The Pickering GS review will focus on the safe and reliable operations of the station while the support functions review will focus on how these functions support the stations in their day-to-day operations. These evaluations will be led by an international panel of industry experts.

OPG said it also continues to evaluate and implement plans to increase capacity, maintain performance, and extend the operating life of its hydroelectric generating assets. These plans are expected to be accomplished through refurbishment or replacement of existing turbine generators, transformers, and controls. During the first quarter of 2015, OPG continued work on the rehabilitation of Sir Adam Beck Pump GS Unit 5, Lower Notch GS, Manitou Falls GS, and Des Joachims GS. In addition, OPG completed a runner replacement and unit upgrade on Aguasabon GS Unit 2 in January 2015.

Ontario is the first jurisdiction in North America to fully eliminate coal as a source of electricity generation. 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 cost recovery is not authorized, OPG will consider all options regarding the future of these stations, including full closure and decommissioning. The decision to continue to incur preservation costs will be revisited in the first half of 2015.

Darlington project to move forward in several phases

The Darlington Refurbishment project is a multi-phase program comprised of these five major sub-projects:

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

The definition phase of the project is well underway and is on track to be completed in 2015. The definition phase involves project planning, engineering, and design and construction of pre-requisite projects, development of reactor tooling, and construction of a reactor training facility including a full-scale reactor mock-up. In 2016, OPG expects to commence the first unit outage and execution of the refurbishment activities.

In November 2014, OPG’s Board of Directors approved the funding for the remainder of the refurbishment’s definition phase. This request included funding for 2015 deliverables and reconfirmed the total project cost estimate at less than C$10 billion in 2013 dollars, excluding capitalized interest and escalation. The final budget and schedule for the four-unit refurbishment are on track to be completed and presented to OPG’s Board of Directors for approval during the fourth quarter of 2015. Once approved, the budget and schedule are expected to be submitted for shareholder concurrence.

There are a number of pre-requisite projects, including construction of facilities, infrastructure upgrades, and installation of safety enhancements, currently underway at the Darlington GS, to be completed in advance of the execution phase of the project. These pre-requisite projects are tracking on plan to support the execution of the first unit’s refurbishment commencing in 2016.

OPG previously established a revised plan for the Heavy Water Storage and Drum Handling Facility to mitigate the construction complexities and schedule risks, including contingency plans to prevent any potential impacts on the Darlington refurbishment project schedule. Construction activities continued during the first quarter of 2015, and the facility is expected to be operational in advance of the required date.

The Retube and Feeder Replacement project is the largest sub-project of the Darlington Refurbishment project and represents a majority of the critical path schedule. Manufacturing of the initial reactor tool set for the Retube and Feeder Replacement project is now complete, and the second Retube Tooling Platform was received at the reactor training facility in January 2015. Tool performance testing at the reactor training facility is progressing as planned and results to date have been positive.

Geologic storage of radioactive waste also moving forward

In 2012, the CNSC and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency appointed a three-member Joint Review Panel (JRP) for OPG’s Deep Geologic Repository (DGR). The JRP examined the environmental effects of the proposed DGR to meet the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. On May 6, the JRP submitted its report and recommendations on the Environmental Assessment (EA) to the federal Minister of Environment regarding the DGR. The report concluded that, given mitigation, there is unlikely to be significant environmental impact from the project and recommended that the federal Minister approve the EA for OPG’s DGR.

The report further suggests that the project should be implemented expeditiously. The Minister’s decision on the EA is expected within 120 days from the report submission by the JRP.

In some other power project development areas:

  • In June 2014, OPG and the Ontario Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) executed a five-year Thunder Bay Biomass Energy Supply Agreement (ESA) for the conversion of one unit at the Thunder Bay GS from coal to advanced biomass fuel. OPG completed the conversion of the unit and declared it in commercial operation in January 2015. The converted unit has an in-service capacity of 153 MW. The conversion of the unit was completed ahead of schedule and under the approved budget of C$7 million. The converted unit is able to provide dispatchable and renewable electricity when required to meet electricity demand.
  • In March 2015, OPG’s Board of Directors approved the project to construct a 28-MW hydroelectric station called Peter Sutherland Sr. GS on the New Post Creek, near its outlet to the Abitibi River, with a planned in-service date in the first half of 2018 and an approved budget of C$300 million. During the first quarter of 2015, OPG and the IESO also agreed to the terms for an ESA. The ESA is expected to be finalized by mid 2015. The station will be constructed through a partnership between OPG and Coral Rapids LP, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Taykwa Tagamou Nation. Under the partnership agreement, Coral Rapids may acquire up to a 33% interest in the partnership.

As of March 31, 2015, OPG’s electricity generation portfolio had an in-service capacity of 17,059 MW. OPG operates two nuclear generating stations, three thermal generating stations, 65 hydroelectric stations, and two wind power turbines. In addition, OPG and TransCanada Energy Ltd. co-own the 550-MW Portlands Energy Centre (PEC) gas-fired combined cycle generating station. OPG and ATCO Power Canada Ltd. co-own the 560-MW 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.