POWER Digest [May 2020]

OPG Reaches First Criticality at Darlington 2, Delays Work at Unit 3

Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG’s) Darlington Unit 2 reactor, the first of four reactors the company is overhauling at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station in Clarington, Canada, achieved first criticality on April 9. The major milestone was accomplished amid the COVID-19 outbreak. “Achieving first criticality on the unit required an incredibly complex sequence of work that included ensuring that construction was complete, all documentation was in order, and multiple systems were returned to service,” said Mehri Molanaie, key evolution manager. “All this led to approval from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to proceed. We can now move forward and complete the final steps of returning this unit to service.” The unit is scheduled to return to service this spring. OPG, however, rescheduled refurbishment work at Unit 3 for the fall, owing to the pandemic. The decision came after considering several factors, including technical constraints on equipment, coordination with other facility outages, financial impacts, supply chain conditions, access to skilled tradespeople and professionals, and regulatory approvals. The revised timeline will still maintain the project’s overall schedule, and OPG plans to complete refurbishment of all four Darlington units by 2026.

EuroAfrica Issues Tender for 1-GW Subsea HVDC Phase

EuroAfrica Interconnector on April 6 initiated a €650 million tender for the engineering, procurement, construction, and installation (EPCI) of a 1-GW subsea high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) line between Egypt, Cyprus, and Greece (Crete and Attica). Securing the contract will allow EuroAfrica to begin the construction phase of the mega-project, which envisions a 2-GW HVDC line laid deep under the Mediterranean Basin to enhance Europe’s energy security and diversity. Construction will take place in two phases: Cyprus-Egypt, expected to be completed in December 2022, and Cyprus-Greece, expected to be completed in December 2023. The first phase is estimated to cost €2.5 billion. In March, Egyptian Electricity Transmission Co. and Nicosia, Cyprus–based EuroAfrica Interconnector signed a framework agreement for the construction of the 310-kilometer (km) part of the project. The Cyprus-Crete section spans 879 km, and the Crete-Attica section spans 329 km. Greece and Cyprus are involved in another project, the EuroAsia Interconnector, which foresees construction of a 1,518-km cable that will connect the electricity grids of Cyprus, Israel, Crete, and Attica in Greece.

Uniper and Siemens Team on Green Hydrogen Development

European power and gas giant Uniper and Siemens Gas and Power on April 8 signed a notable agreement to cooperate on the development of green hydrogen projects for power generation, mobility, and industry. Under the agreement, the companies will evaluate Uniper’s existing gas turbine and gas storage facilities to determine how they can use hydrogen. “The focus of the work is to define what role can hydrogen play in the future evolution of Uniper’s coal power plants,” the companies said in a joint release. At the end of January, immediately after Germany published its coal exit law, Uniper announced it would close or convert its own coal-fired power plants in Germany by 2025. “Uniper’s coal-exit plan is instrumental to make the company achieve its objective of becoming climate neutral in its European power generation by 2035,” the company said. While the company already produces 24 TWh of hydro and nuclear power, under a new strategy, it intends to increase the share of green gas in its conventional gas business, both for power generation and energy trading. Siemens Gas and Power, which is slated to be spun-off as part of Siemens Energy with a planned stock listing, has been developing hydrogen gas turbines as well as “brownfield transformation” projects, which it says are designed to decarbonize coal-fired plants and reduce carbon emissions at gas-fired plants through the integration of green hydrogen. Siemens is also a developer of electrolyzer technologies that could bolster power-to-x solutions.

Russia Eyes Low-Carbon Energy Future

Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development in March released a draft energy strategy that could cement its ambitions until 2035. In a speech on April 2, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said the strategy will be implemented in two stages: The first—until 2025—will be “aligned with the existing state programs, and most importantly, with national goals, national projects and the comprehensive plan for modernization and expansion of backbone infrastructure.” The document notably outlines four key low-carbon scenarios. These involve energy efficiency measures, the introduction of a carbon price, and the development of renewables and nuclear power. The strategy’s basic scenario would see nuclear output grow from 203 TWh in 2017 to 225 TWh in 2030 and 260 TWh in 2050.

Acciona to Build 1-GW Onshore Wind Behemoth in Australia

Spanish conglomerate Acciona on March 26 said it will begin building a massive 1,026-MW wind park in Queensland, Australia, starting in mid-2021. The $1.2 billion project will be sited at the MacIntyre complex in energy-strapped Queensland, and it will be built in phases to ensure connection to the grid for the state’s electricity system, while optimizing the return on investment, the company said. The entire complex, which will comprise 180 Nordex Delta4000 turbines (each with a capacity of up to 5.7 MW) is slated to be completed in 2024. Acciona will develop and own 926 MW, and the remaining 100 MW will be built and owned by CleanCo, a Queensland government–owned generator. However, the company revealed it is still negotiating additional supply agreements with “private clients as well as the possible involvement of other offtaker-investor partners” for its 926-MW share of the project. In March, Acciona also sealed a power purchase agreement to supply CleanCo with 400 MW for 10 years. When completed, the complex will be Acciona’s largest renewable project to date, as well as one of the largest onshore wind farms in the world.

Norway Greenlights 88-MW Floating Hywind Wind Farm

Norway’s Ministry of Petroleum and Industry on April 8 approved plans for Equinor’s development and operation of the 88-MW Hywind Tampen wind farm, a floating offshore wind farm that will provide power to five oil and gas platforms (Snorre A and B and Gullfaks A, B, and C) in the North Sea. When completed at the end of 2022, the wind farm will consist of 11 Siemens Gamesa 8-MW wind turbines based on the Hywind wind farm concept developed by Equinor. It will be located about 140 kilometers from shore, between the Snorre and Gullfaks platforms, at a water depth of 260 to 300 meters. To date, Equinor has awarded $331 million in contracts for the project, whose total investment is estimated at $486 million. The project has $223 million in backing from the Norwegian government as well as about $55 million from a private fund. Other key contracts have been awarded to Kværner AS for the substructure; JDR Cable Systems for the export cables; Wood Group for modifications of the oil and gas platforms; and Mammoet for the crane rental. ■

Sonal Patel is a POWER senior associate editor.

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