AltaGas seeks 18-month delay on construction start for 553-MW project

AltaGas Sonoran Energy Inc. filed with the California Energy Commission on Feb. 4 an application for an 18-month delay, to June 2018, on the construction start deadline for the Blythe Energy Project Phase II.

Currently, the deadline for commencement of construction of Blythe II is Dec. 14, 2016, with the requested eighteen-month extension allowing for a deadline of June 14, 2018.

In December 2005, the California commission approved a license to construct the 520-MW Blythe II project. Upon receipt of the license, Caithness Blythe II LLC worked over the course of several years to overcome various interconnection and other issues that prevented initiation of construction. The commission previously granted Caithness’ request for extension of the commencement of construction deadline to the current Dec. 14, 2016.

Then AltaGas Power Holding (U.S.) Inc. acquired 100% of the equity interests in the owner of Blythe II. Following the closing of that acquisition, Caithness Blythe II was converted from a Delaware limited liability company to a Delaware corporation and the company’s name was changed to AltaGas Sonoran Energy.

Immediately thereafter, AltaGas Sonoran said it began working with its consultants and engineers to develop modifications to the project design in an effort to construct a least cost, best fit project while taking into account the current energy market and environmental conditions, as well as to resolve interconnection issues associated with the licensed project. On July 15, 2015, AltaGas submitted a petition to amend to allow for the following project modifications:

  • Define a new point of interconnection (due to the non-existence of the Keim substation);
  • Replace the two Siemens SGT6-5000F combustion turbines with a single, more efficient General Electric Frame 7HA.02 combustion turbine;
  • Replace the Siemens steam turbine generator with a more efficient single-shaft General Electric D652 steam turbine generator;
  • Increase the size of the auxiliary boiler to support General Electric’s rapid response fast start capability;
  • Decrease the size of cooling tower from an 11-cell to a 10-cell tower in response to the reduced heat rejection requirements;
  • Decrease the size of the emergency diesel fire pump engine; and
  • Optimize the general arrangement.

Said the Feb. 4 extension request: “AltaGas Sonoran seeks an extension of the commencement of construction deadline to ensure adequate time for Staff’s review of the Petition to Amend and the Commission’s consideration of the modifications proposed therein, and ensure enough time to secure an engineering, procurement and construction contract, and subsequently comply with preconstruction conditions of certification.”

AltaGas Sonoran said it has spent considerable time engineering a project that will support the integration of renewable resources while providing efficient, fast-start, combined cycle gas-fired generation that, among other things, will utilize dry combustors and water treatment of tower effluent, as well as share certain infrastructure with the existing and operational Blythe Energy Project next door.

It’s going to take time for the petition to amend to work through the Energy Commission review process, the company noted. Even after that process is completed, there are numerous pre-construction requirements, some of which must be complied with 60 or more days prior to construction or site mobilization.

Also, on Feb. 8, the commission staff said in a notice that it will conduct a Feb. 24 workshop to discuss its Preliminary Staff Assessment (PSA) of the Sonoran Energy Project (SEP) (formerly called the Blythe Energy Project Phase II). The workshop will provide an opportunity for the project owner, interested agencies, and the public to make comments and work with staff to resolve issues related to the SEP. Based upon information the staff receives at the workshop and written comments provided by the close of the 30-day comment period on the PSA, the staff will prepare and publish its Final Staff Assessment (FSA). 

The SEP is proposed to be a natural gas-fired, water-cooled, combined-cycle, 553-MW (net) facility. Primary modifications to the approved BEP II include the name change of the project to the SEP. Other modifications proposed include defining a new point of electrical interconnection via a 1,320-foot, 161-kV transmission line to the Western Area Power Administration’s Blythe substation located southeast of the project site via an existing transmission line located in the Southern California Edison Buck Boulevard substation.

The public comment period for this PSA will continue until March 1. Written comments to be addressed at the workshop should be submitted by Feb. 22.

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.