Plants shifting back to gas fuel after Malampaya shutdown ends

by Myrna Velasco, 14 April 2015
from Manila Bulletin

Consumer worries over twin threats of power interruptions and rate spikes could now be eased with the return of the Malampaya gas production facility to operation.

That then prompted the plants of First Gen Corporation (1,000MW Santa Rita and 500MW San Lorenzo) to immediately shift back to gas as fuel for electricity generation – that was coming from the utilization of condensate as alternative fuel during the gas facility’s downtime.

First Gen said it started “fuel changeover of the units to natural gas after midnight on Monday” – following completion of maintenance and platform tie-in activities at Malampaya.

But according to Manila Electric Company (Meralco), the 1,200MW Ilijan natural gas plant has not switched on its fuel use yet. As of press time on Tuesday, it was still running on biodiesel and with a generation level of 385MW.

It was worth noting though that when the gas plants were still shifting to gas fuel, the reserve level for Luzon was at a thinly-critical level of 653 megawatts — that if one major power generating unit conked out, it could have plunged the grid into rolling brownouts.

Propitiously, it happened at low-demand period, hence, the system had better leverage to prevent probable power interruptions.

As of 11am, which is part of the period of the system’s morning peak, reserve level had already gone up to 1,130MW, as culled from NGCP data. At that time, available capacity was at 9,653MW vis-à-vis system peak demand of 8,195MW.

The maintenance shutdown of the Malampaya gas production facility was already completed on Monday – without the grid experiencing supply dilemmas on electricity.

The only distressing part for the consumers had been the power rate adjustments – although in general, it was still tempered compared to earlier anticipations of more drastic price spikes.

The rate impact of the gas plants’ utilization of more expensive fuel will be felt by ratepayers in their electric bills until next month.