Baja California Sur thermo plants could be forced to use fuel oil

Bnamericas Published: Friday, June 19, 2020
Baja California Sur thermo plants could be forced to use fuel oil

Results of two natural gas supply tenders opened in March for Baja California Sur state (BCS) have not yet been announced and that could force state power company CFE to power two new turbines with fuel oil instead.

Local groups concerned about the situation are urging federal officials to meet the recently formed Baja California energy council to discuss the matter on June 28.

State governor Carlos Mendoza Davis set up the council in December 2019 after BCS suffered several widespread and long-lasting power outages in June, July and August 2019, drawing protests from the powerful tourism lobby in the state and demands from local politicians to produce clean and sustainable energy options to resolve the energy shortage. 

The group, comprised of representatives of the BCS political, business and civil sectors, aims to coordinate energy development in the state with the federal government and CFE, but it is unclear if either of the latter will participate in the June 28 meeting to discuss the new turbines and their fuel source.  

The gas supply tenders, launched by subsidiary CFEnergía on March 6, are essential for the company’s fast-track rollout of new capacity intended to prevent such outages.

Local opposition continues against planned thermoelectric combined-cycle plants in the state, despite President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s promise in January that the plants would exclusively use natural gas in the long-term. 

The ramp-up of CFE projects in the state is taking place as US independent New Fortress Energy is winding up construction at an LNG reception and regasification terminal in the port of Pichilingue, BCS. The plant will include a 105MW gas-fired power plant and truck-loading bays to supply of LNG to local hotel and industrial customers. 

The facility should come online in 3Q20, the company reported that during its first quarter results presentation.

As the situation stands, with no natural gas supply as yet, it appears that CFE will have to temporarily resort to using diesel or fuel oil, much to the chagrin of local environmental groups. 

The two 33MW turbines were transferred from the Jorge Luque thermoelectric plant in Lechería, Mexico state, to BCS last March to complement additional capacity now being tendered and three other power plants already in operation, daily Reforma reported Wednesday.

Jacqueline Valenzuela, director of the organization Cerca La Paz, said pollution from existing power generation has not decreased significantly despite the COVID-19 lockdown.

"We made comparisons in 2019 and 2020 for the pollutants related to electricity generation, which are mainly sulfur, nitrogen dioxide and ozone,” Valenzuela was quoted as saying by Reforma. “Sulfur shows an upward trend despite the fact that there is less demand for electricity and the decrease is not even 20% in the case of nitrogen and ozone.”

Valenzuela said one explanation would be a higher mix of fuel oil at existing thermo plants, which is known to produce higher sulfur levels. 

CFE, however, has insisted that the Lechería turbines are high efficiency and fully capable of using natural gas or diesel and an environmental study on that plant, detailed Thursday in BCS news outlet Diario El Independiente, indicate that the Lecharía plant turbines have been using solely natural gas since 2004.

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