Contingency measures sought as Malampaya undergoes repair

By Myrna M. Velasco – June 18, 2017, 10:00 PM

from Manila Bulletin

As the Malampaya gas production facility will undergo another round of scheduled maintenance next month and in September, the Department of Energy (DOE) is now engaging critical stakeholders on contingency measures to prevent unwanted power interruptions and unreasonable cost impact on consumers.

The energy department has notified key industry players for a meeting today (June 19) to discuss plans and courses of action that must be taken relating to Malampaya’s maintenance downtime.

The DOE forthrightly indicated that ‘gas restriction’ would be experienced on July 15-17 and September 23-25 in the course of the facility’s repair and restoration timelines.

Additionally, the department indicated that state-run National Power Corporation will be carrying out ‘pigging activity’ at its Tabangao-Ilijan pipeline on August 19-21, 2017 – this is the facility that services the 1,200-megawatt Ilijan gas plant.

‘Pigging process’ refers to the use of ‘pigs’ for maintenance activities in pipelines, generally to clean up wax buildup and other debris so it can be kept operating at high efficiency levels.

When pigging activity was last done at the Ilijan pipeline in 2014, there had been ‘weekend brownouts’ to the consternation of Luzon grid customers and such also resulted in eventual spikes in electricity bills.

For this round, however, the expectation is a bit different with power supply now at a relatively more stable state.

Nevertheless, the DOE has been pressing key utilities like the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) to be prepared with contingencies to shield consumers from the unwarranted twin effects of rate hikes and service interruptions.

The department is asking Meralco to lay down its ‘emergency measures’ including prospective signing up of interim power supply agreements (IPSAs) to guarantee supply flow on these ‘gas restricted’ episodes in the power service chain.

With constrained gas supply flow, power plants utilizing Malampaya fuel may likely need to shift to other liquid fuels during the maintenance period, and that could entail additional costs that will eventually be borne by consumers.

Meralco has supply contracts with the gas plants – primarily that of the First Gas and Ilijan facilities, hence, it is critical that it will have alternatives in cases of snags in the system.