17 October 2012

The Dangers of Being a Mythbuster – More Thermal than Thermal #nlpoli

The issue of Holyrood and the future cost of thermal generation is a big part of the argument for Muskrat Falls.

What’s so amazing about it is that people can actually get so confused by something so straightforward.

Inventing a Myth

Here’s how John Samms’ described the second Muskrat Falls myth he wanted to bust:

Myth #2: We will continue burning oil long into the future in Holyrood.

John then quotes a recent tweet by your humble e-scribbler:

I was more struck by Peter Woodward talking about eliminating oil when the MF plan calls for more oil generation than H'rood.

And the reply from Nalcor (Gil Bennett and Dawn Dalley) to John’s inquiry:

Holyrood will cease production shortly after we have commissioned the Labrador – Island Transmission Link.  We will maintain it in a standby state for a couple of years, but it will definitely not be running for as long as Ed Hollett [sic] suggests. (That only happens in the isolated case).

The Actual Comment

Maybe the gang at Nalcor didn’t read the inquiry clearly enough but here’s the fairly obvious mistake that both they and John Samms’ make.

As noted in the tweet about Peter Woodward, Nalcor’s plan for Muskrat falls calls for the company to install more thermal generation than is currently installed at Holyrood.

Not at Holyrood.

Than is currently installed in Holyrood.

The Infeed Option Thermal Plan

The source for the information SRBP used, as Samm’s correctly noted, is the set of tables in Manitoba Hydro International’s report for the public utilities board.  They are clearly labelled as the generation plan for the infeed scenario, which is the Muskrat Falls scenario.

Samm’s also quotes an SRBP post:

According to Manitoba Hydro International, the Muskrat Falls plan includes the construction of seven new oil-fired  – i.e. thermal – generating plants between 2036 and 2037.

There’s a small typo. That should be 2067, not 2037.  In the context of the original post, the mistaken digit is obvious.  But it’s also obvious that the post is not about continued thermal generation at Holyrood beyond the initial period that Nalcor plans to keep using it as a backup.

For now, take a look at the infeed generation chart again.  Here’s what it states: between 2036 and 2067, Nalcor plans to install a series of new thermal generating units as part of the Muskrat Falls plan.  There is one 170 megawatt installation and  a series of 50 MW units.  For good measure, let’s add in the one planned for 2014.

All told, it adds up to 520 MW installed capacity. (seven times 50MW plus an additional 170 MW)

The same information is in Volume 2 of the MHI report:

The Infeed Option includes the addition of 520 MW of thermal generation using combustion turbines (CT) and combined cycle combustion turbines (CCCT). This generation plan includes:

  • Synchronous condenser conversion projects at HTGS for units 1 and 2 plus some life extension work to keep the plant running as a generation facility to 2021, after which all units operate as synchronous condensers to 2041.
  • 7 – 50 MW new CTs.
  • 1 – 170 MW new CCCT.

According to Nalcor’s website:

Put in service in 1969, the Holyrood Generating Station consists of three turbines for a total generating capacity of 490 megawatts (MW).

The Infeed option calls for the installation of more thermal generating capacity than is currently installed at Holyrood. It’s that simple.

But wait: it gets better.

Nalcor acknowledged in their own July 2011 presentation to the PUB that they would be adding thermal generation to the system after 2030 “for reliability support only.”

nalcor slide


No matter how you look at it, thermal generation will continue to be an important part of Nalcor’s operation.  It would be crucial under their isolated scenario.  Under the infeed – that is, Muskrat Falls – scenario, Nalcor would continue to rely on thermal generation as an integral component of the system.

This simple fact is important because of the claim by Muskrat Falls proponents that their option will reduce reliance on thermal generation or, as some people seem to believe, eliminate it altogether. 

In this particular instance, John Samms’ he post on mythbusting stands out because the scenario he presented is so obviously and completely wrong right from the start.  The mythbusting post and the information from Nalcor on thermal generating options merely add to the considerable level of confusion across Newfoundland and Labrador about details of the Muskrat Falls plan.

There’s one “myth” left to go and we’ll turn to that on Thursday.