Diesel to fuel Ilijan unit, augment thin power supply this summer

by Lenie Lectura, January 26, 2015
from BusinessMirror

TO partly address the looming power shortage, one unit of the 1,200-megawatt (MW) Ilijan combined-cycle power plant will run on liquid fuel, while the other unit will proceed with its 30-day scheduled maintenance work.

“Because of the very tight supply, if they have to conduct maintenance, defer it and run it because we need the additional capacity,” Energy Undersecretary Zenaida Monsada said on Monday.

Based on its latest projection, the DOE said Luzon would need 782 MW, of which 135 MW are needed to meet the required regulating reserve, and 647 MW to meet the required contingency reserve.

The Ilijan power plant in Batangas is composed of two units with a generating capacity of 600 MW each. It is one of the natural-gas power plants fueled by the Malampaya gas facility.

Monsada was referring to Ilijan Block B, which is scheduled for a 30-day maintenance work to coincide with the Malampaya gas facility from March 15 to April 15.

Unit 1 or Block A can still be utilized in the absence of natural gas because the power plant is designed to run on both liquid fuel, which is either diesel or biodiesel (B2), and natural gas, Monsada said.

When sought for comment, Energy Secretary Carlos Jerico L. Petilla, in a text message, said, “It is a standard practice during the Malampaya shutdown for one unit of Ilijan to go on maintenance while one unit to run on liquid fuel.”

Under the Biofuels Act, a 2-percent biodiesel (diesel with coco methyl ester) blend is required for all retail pumps and power plants running on diesel. If Ilijan Block A will run on diesel and not on biodiesel, Petilla said there is a need to suspend the application of the biofuels law with respect to the Ilijan plant to allow the plant to run on pure diesel.

“If pure diesel, we need exemption from the law through joint Congress,” said Petilla, adding that he had already requested for an exemption. “It’s not with us anymore to decide on this. It’s with the joint Congress.”

This, as the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) said it has started soliciting bids for the supply and delivery of 60 million liters of diesel oil for the Ilijan power plant.

The state firm has set aside an approved budget for contract of P1,664,911,472.

“The IDO procurement project shall ensure the operation of Ilijan this year, especially with the anticipated tightening of power supply in the summer,” PSALM President and CEO Emmanuel R. Ledesma Jr. said.

Bid submission deadline is on February 16.

Lower output

There are apprehensions on the fuel shift. PSALM and Kepco Philippines Inc. said earlier that Ilijan power plant’s efficiency level will be reduced and its capacity would not be maximized.

But Monsada stressed that there is no problem with the Ilijan plant’s technical capability to utilize both pure diesel and B2. However, the power plant may take longer to clean because of liquid fuel’s affinity to water.

“There is no problem in the engine, it is designed to run on both fuel.  The problem is when they revert back to gas, they have to clean the line. The plant will not run slower [when it shifts to B2]. There is just the possibility of a longer cleaning time that is based on assumption…if you think of potential problems, you think of everything,” she said.

The Ilijan power plant’s constraint, she added, is that it has only one fuel line, so when it shifts to liquid fuel, the plant has to first undergo cleaning operations due to the apprehension over water absorption.

The cleaning operations may result to additional plant downtime when using B2, thus the total output of the power plant is assumed to be lower.

PSALM earlier said full availability of Ilijan could not be assured given all the preparatory activities that need to be undertaken for the fuel shift.

“The 1,200-MW Ilijan combined-cycle power plant’s proposed fuel shift from biodiesel to pure diesel will not provide assurance that the load of the plant’s Block 1 would increase from 420 MW to 600 MW whenever the natural-gas supply from the Malampaya is not available,” Ledesma said, while stressing that the shift cannot guarantee the increase in capacity given that the last performance test of the plant using liquid fuel was conducted 13 years ago.

“In any case, this shift cannot be completed in time for the Malampaya shutdown from March 15 to April 14, 2015,” Ledesma added.

But Monsada clarified that the expected lower output from the Ilijan plant, as presented by Kepco, was based on the assumption that the fuel line will have to be cleaned when it shifts to liquid fuel.

Cleaning involves downtime and longer downtime means more power-generation loss. “That is the average that the plant will run when you use diesel [B2], based on estimated downtime because of the conversion back to gas. In the end, that is the issue, cleaning up the fuel line,” Monsada said.

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