Monday, 1 March 2010

Rehab of Ambuklao hydro plant to be completed before year-end

Paul Anthony A. Isla
Business Mirror

BUKOD, Benguet—-An additional 105 megaWatts (MW) of electricity is expected to be brought back to the grid from SN Aboitiz Power (SNAP) Benguet Inc.’s (SNAPBI) Ambuklao hydropower plant, Emmanuel Lopez, SNAPBI site manager, told reporters over the weekend.

“What we did in Ambuklao is similar to buying an old car where you keep the chassis and replace the entire engine and some parts with new ones. We had to replace almost everything [in the Ambuklao] in order to revive and upgrade it to generate electricity for the Luzon grid,” Lopez said during a familiarization tour at the Ambuklao hydropower plant in Bukod, Benguet.

He added that after rehabilitation and upgrade work, the Ambuklao facility will be able to generate 105 mW instead of 75 mW.

Lopez said the company had to replace the plug and replace the old headrace and tailrace, which were heavily silted due to soil erosion brought about by the earthquake that hit Benguet during the 1990s. The Ambuklao hydropower plant was shut down by its former operator National Power Corp. in the late ’90s.

Lopez added that the company dug a new headrace tunnel to bypass the old headrace, which was heavily silted.

Lopez said SNAP is spending $280.4 million to rehabilitate and upgrade the Ambuklao hydropower plant and even the Binga hydropower plant. The rehabilitation and upgrade costs are separate costs SNAP had to program apart from the acquisition cost.

The Ambuklao and Binga hydropower plants were acquired by SNAP for $325 million as a package through a bidding held by the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. in November 2007.

In December 2008, SNAP began the rehabilitation of the Ambuklao plant, which has been shut down since 1999 as a result of damage from a major earthquake. The rehabilitation project will restore and upgrade the Ambuklao plant and upgrade the Binga plant.

When completed, the combined capacity of the plants will increase from 175 mW to 225 mW, with Ambuklao increasing from 75 mW to 105 mW and Binga from 100 mW to 120 mW. The Ambuklao rehabilitation project is planned to be completed by the end of 2010. Completion of the Binga plant refurbishment is targeted in 2013.

Lopez said Typhoon Pepeng that hit north Luzon in October last year caused a delay in civil and construction works, and even in the arrival of some key equipment needed in the rehabilitation project of the Ambuklao.

The delay in arrival of equipment, according to Lopez, has prompted the company to slide its target dates of completion to a later time.

Lopez said the company had to slide the coming online of the first of three 35-mW units to September 20, instead of the original schedule of August 3. The second and third units are expected to come online by October 29 and November 27, respectively.

Lopez said the second 35-mW unit was originally targeted to be online by September 27, while the third unit’s target date of coming online remains the same.

Amid the slide in target dates, he added that the rehabilitation project is still expected to remain within the budget of $280.4 million. “Before the end of the year, the Ambuklao will bring in an additional 105 mW of renewable energy-generated power to the Luzon grid, which will be able to displace fossil-based power plants then,” Lopez said.

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