Biomass project picks up steam

Nancy King
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Arrival of steam turbine generator marks ‘major milestone’

[Point Tupper, NS] — Construction of a $208-million biomass cogeneration plant has reached a significant milestone with the arrival of the steam turbine generator that will produce electricity.

Construction is moving along at the site of Nova Scotia Power’s biomass plant at the NewPage mill site in Point Tupper, with the large steam turbine and generator now in place on their pedestals.

Nova Scotia Power officials invited members of the media on a tour of the construction site Thursday, (May 3) which is located at the former NewPage Port Hawkesbury mill site.

The facility will see biomass burned to produce electricity. It is to generate about 60 megawatts of electricity a year, enough to power about 50,000 homes.

“We did hit a major milestone last week when we placed our steam turbine and generator on its pedestals — so its final resting place — in the steam turbine building at site,” said Roger Burton, NSPI’s senior director for projects, technical and construction.

“Once those pieces of equipment are in place, it allows some of the larger construction projects to start.”

For example, Burton said the large and high pressure steam piping can now be connected to those pieces of equipment and the electrical connections to the generator can begin. He said those are some of the single largest contracts on the project.

The steam turbine generator was constructed by Mitsubishi Power Systems in Japan. In the wake of last year’s earthquake and tsunami, Mitsubishi invoked a contract condition excusing it from meeting obligations if it encountered circumstances beyond its control. Despite that, it was delivered on schedule.

Significant planning had to go into the delivery of the turbine generator to the site. The steam turbine weighs about 190 tonnes and the generator weighs about 70 tonnes. The unit was shipped by boat to Halifax where it was placed in a special rail car that had to be brought in from San Diego.

“The unit (was loaded) onto that car in a special orientation so we could get it to site here and minimize the amount of handling so that we could reduce the risk of having an issue of getting it into its final resting place,” Burton said. “That required a fair bit of logistics.”

The plant is expected to begin producing power by the end of the first quarter of next year. That is a couple of months behind the project’s original timetable. The project was somewhat delayed last year when NewPage Port Hawkesbury, which was going to construct and operate the facility for Nova Scotia Power Inc., shut down indefinitely and entered creditor protection. NSPI subsequently took over control of the project.

“Not only this contract, but any contract we do where a third party is managing, we always have a contingency plan in case we need to take over a project, and so when the insolvency happened, we invoked that plan,” Burton said.

The number of jobs on site during the construction phase fluctuates, but Burton said there are currently close to 150 on site, and that figure could get closer to 200 at peak.

Environmental groups have raised concerns about the potential of increased clearcutting. They have also said the project will increase the amount of carbon dioxide emitted in the province and that it won’t reduce the amount of coal burned for electricity in Nova Scotia.

When it was announced, it was projected that the biomass plant would create about 150 new forestry jobs.

Cape Breton Post



Organizations: Nova Scotia Power Inc., NewPage Port Hawkesbury, Mitsubishi

Geographic location: Japan, Halifax, San Diego Nova Scotia Cape Breton

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