State-of-the-Art Sustainable Power
Station A at BPL’s Clifton Pier Power Station was completed and began pumping power to the grid in December 2019. The total investment in Station A was $96.8 million, and the project was funded through loan and insurance proceeds. Station A is the largest single power plant ever built in the history of BEC/BPL, and it was built in record time, less than nine months.
The station features seven Wӓrtsilӓ 50DF engines designed to give high output with fuel flexibility, low emissions, efficiency and reliability. These highly automated engines can burn light fuel oil, natural gas (LNG), or heavy fuel oil (HFO) and can smoothly switch between fuels whilst operating, providing the same output regardless of the fuel. Each engine is rated at 18.85MW. That means we have just under 132 megawatts of state-of-the-art, high-efficiency, lower-cost power that will become the replacement baseload generation available for BPL New Providence operations, and will leapfrog the company into the forefront of power generation technology.
Station A: An Energy Renewal
The new power plant at BPL’s Clifton Pier Power Station is a response to the urgent need of the people of The Bahamas for reliable power generation. The decision to build a new power plant at Station A was taken by the BPL Board of Directors in the aftermath of a fire that took some of our major assets offline in September of 2018. As BPL engaged in negotiations with Shell North America for a new 220 megawatt Gas-to-Power Plant and LNG Regasification Terminal Facility, the proposed completion date of 2021 stood out. BPL determined that The Bahamas could not wait until 2021 to address the reliability of power generation on New Providence, and the knock on effects such reliability would bring. As such, BPL determined that a solution was needed immediately. Ultimately, the decision was made to install a 132 megawatt plant at Station A, and to have that plant pumping power to the grid before the books closed on 2019.
And the decision to build the new plant at Station A fit perfectly with the strategic goals of BPL’s Executive Team. The work on preparing the engine hall at Station A to host the new plant was extensive, and required a high degree of precision and execution from the BPL staff.
Engines – Logistics
Station A was decommissioned in 2016. In order to prepare the engine hall for its new life, BPL had to dismantle and remove the four decommissioned two-stroke diesel engines that had been in place since they were commissioned in the 1980s, along with the auxiliary works that supported them. This was completed in February 2019. The civil engineering works required to prepare the site for the new plant were completed in May 2019.
The engines arrived in Nassau on May 6, 2019.
The refit of Station A was a logistical tour de force. As the ship carrying the seven Wärtsilä 50DF multi-fuel engines crossed the Atlantic from Finland, crews were hard at work prepping the hall at Station A.
Over the next six months, BPL and Wärtsilä were engaged in a complex, delicate dance which required near absolute perfection to pull off. In broad strokes, the dance started with getting Station A ready, which included pouring new foundations for the new engines. This required more than 2,000 cubic yards of concrete – that’s 200 trucks of concrete! – and was the main feature of the preparation of the engine hall. Next came delivery of the engines, followed by placement – a production in itself – and then delivery and set up of the auxiliary equipment.
The placement of the engines began with getting them off the ship at the port. Special equipment was used to effect the transfer. This task required such precision that the engines were transported at walking pace – two miles per hour! – from the port to the hall through the night along a pre-mapped route. The engines were transported aboard a special vehicle – itself a technical marvel – driven by remote from behind. The transfer from the port to the hall, at that pace, took about nine hours, with the team walking the engines the entire route. To place all seven engines took 23 days.
The major benefits of Station A are:
- increased reliability,
- lowered cost of electricity,
- increased energy and price security,
- a substantial improvement in the power generation reliability in New Providence,
- lower fuel charge on their monthly billing and
- possession of sufficient generating assets to finally close the chapter on rental generation in New Providence.
How soon can consumers see a reduction in the cost of electricity in their bill?
The fact is that the engines are going to be powered by heavy fuel oil initially, until LNG becomes available. The price of heavy fuel oil is significantly lower than the price of diesel. Once the engines come online, residents of The Bahamas can expect to see prices go down in the fuel charge.
By what percentage will consumers see their fuel charge go down?
The fuel consumption today is about 80% diesel and 20% heavy fuel oil. We’re going to shift from being a more diesel-burning entity to being a heavy fuel oil-burning entity. We anticipate that the fuel charge will drop significantly, especially since the new plant will be base loaded. It will be first dispatched before other units are dispatched.
Where is BPL getting the $95M?
When the fire happened in 2018, we were newly into the fiscal year, and we were able to push aside a lot of the capital projects that we were planning on doing to make the new generation possible, knowing that we would have to put in generation to supplement the loss of the 63 MW at Station C. So the great percentage of the money is coming from capital works that were deferred in favour of this new generation.
We had to reprioritize.
Clearly, when you’re financially constrained, you have to make decisions that are not always the easiest decisions to make. You have to look at an order of priority, so works that mitigate things that are going to negatively impact our customers, we simply say, “We’ve got to get those done.”
How much did BPL pay for rental units last year?
We pay significant costs for rental units. It’s a little less than $2M a month, so you can see the Bahamian people are paying a significant amount of money for rental units. The important thing for us is that when Station A is up and running, we really can close the chapter on rental units. That’s what we focus on more than anything else, because it’s a cost to the Bahamian people that really, they should not be bearing.
Does this plant mean we see the light at the end of the tunnel regarding blackouts?
The plant will experience upwards of 99.9% reliability because of the way it is constructed. Customers will see a dramatic reduction in generation-related outages.
How will we maintain the reliability of this new equipment?
There are four really critical things on these assets.
- We’re dealing with a high-efficiency engine, higher than anything we have in the fleet today.
- The assets burn the cheapest of oils that is available on the market today, even cheaper than gas.
- We can get more power out of one barrel of that oil than we can get out of a barrel of diesel or gas, so it’s even that much more efficient from that perspective.
- Lower maintenance costs. These engines are known to not cost as much when you provide the maintenance.
So when you combine all those together, your operating costs goes down.
Also, we are not going to be operating these assets. BPL is moving away from owning and operating generating facilities. So there will be Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that a service provider is going to be mandated to provide to us so that we know such things as maintenance, reliability and efficiency are being adhered to on these assets. So it’s not just a matter of turning the assets over to anybody, but it’s also making sure that KPIs are met.