The pictures look like something out of a dystopian industrial wasteland: valves spurting steam from their valve stems, broken and pitted welds, rusting patches over failing pipes and rusted, ash-covered boiler parts.
They’re photographs from inside the Holyrood Thermal Generating Station, some of them from inside the boiler works themselves, all in a report outlining why Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro needs to do $2.6 million in unexpected repairs at the site this summer. It’s repairs to stop things like high-pressure steam leaks that shut down one of the plant’s units three times in the last two months of 2016. Like replacing seawater cooling pipes that have corroded to the point that pipe walls are now one-third the thickness they were when they were installed.
Hydro’s trying to keep the plant running until 2021 - and that’s pricey.
But that’s just one of the emergency repairs that Hydro asked for during the last few weeks.
In Happy Valley-Goose Bay, a test run of a backup power turbine ended up with an unexpected oil leak and a massive repair bill, over $3.7 million in work that has to be done before September. The entire Happy Valley gas turbine has to be removed and shipped to a repair facility to be disassembled and have internal bearing seals replaced.
The requests for emergency repairs were filed with the Public Utility Board on April 18 and 19 - aren’t you glad that you’re not facing a two-day repair bill of $6.3 million?
The only problem is, you are. And every other power user is, too.
That’s because emergency repairs costs like these get totalled up with Hydro’s other capital expenses, and flow back to the ratepayers.
For anyone who’s keeping track (and it sometimes feels like no one is keeping track), Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro originally budgeted to do $271 million in capital projects and upgrades in 2017. Already, that’s increased by over $26 million in emergency work to $297 million, and it’s only April.
We still have eight months of the year to go. (There are some offsets: the turbine repair in Happy Valley, for example, was set to be refurbished in 2019 anyway, so Hydro was already budgeting to do some of this year’s repair work in later years. Likewise, repairs at Bay d’Espoir will allow the utility to do early maintenance work that was already scheduled for future years.)
It’s gotten to the point that the PUB not-so-gently asked in March - when Hydro asked for permission to do other emergency work at Holyrood - whether Hydro was expecting anything else, saying in a formal request for information, “Does Hydro anticipate any further supplemental capital applications in 2017 for the Holyrood Thermal Generating Station? If yes, please provide details.”
There’s been clear evidence that Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro is playing catch-up with repairs it has delayed in the past. The only question now is: how much will the catching-up cost?