Essay by Eric Worrall
Australia’s version of Chapter 11 – could Australia be on the verge of losing another coal plant?
Callide C co-owner Intergen goes into voluntary administration
Mark Ludlow Queensland bureau chief
Mar 24, 2023 – 9.21pm
The co-owners of the Callide C coal-fired power station in Central Queensland, have gone into voluntary administration.
Amid ongoing uncertainty over the power station – which has been beset by delays following an explosion at its C4 unit in May 2021 – Deloitte confirmed on late Friday afternoon it had been appointed to Intergen Energy’s companies relating to Callide C.
Deloitte said the decision to go into administration had been made after shareholders of Intergen – which is now trading as Genuity – could not agree on future funding for the joint venture.
Future wholesale electricity prices in Queensland jumped by up to $15 per megawatt hour earlier this month after CS Energy announced the return of its Callide C coal-fired power station would be further delayed by another six months to October.
…Read more: https://www.afr.com/companies/energy/callide-c-co-owner-intergen-goes-into-voluntary-administration-20230324-p5cv4u
WUWT covered a massive explosion at Callide C in 2021 which knocked out substantial parts of the East Coast power grid. The explosion may have been caused by a hydrogen coolant leak.
This financial turmoil at Callide C could be fallout from the energy price caps imposed by the green left federal government last June, a promised carbon tax, hikes in resource taxes, and frequent public comments from government ministers about the need to get rid of coal.
If coal has no future, and energy prices are capped to prevent fossil fuel plants from making a profit on those occasions when they are allowed to operate, why should shareholders support coal plant maintenance?
AEMO warnings that Australia faces massive energy shortfalls in the near future, and that renewables are not being built fast enough to replace fossil fuel plants scheduled for decommissioning, to date are falling on deaf ears. Aussie Federal Government ministers responsible for overseeing our looming energy shortfall seem to believe Australia’s energy needs can be satisfied with wishful thinking and empty green platitudes.
“This financial turmoil at Callide C could be fallout from the energy price caps imposed by the green left federal government last June”
They were imposed in December. But they came with massive compensation, so this is unlikely to be a cause.
But it is even more unlikely, since Callide C has not been working since before the cap was imposed, and is now not expected to be back before October 2023.
Unreliability is the basic problem.
BS. They have been runnining reliably for decades. Maintenance and upgrades are not being done because there is no prospect of costs being recovered.
Hazelwood in Victoria had the same dilemma.
Being told by regulators that ‘you have no future’ tends to prompt owners of businesses to immediately start looking for the exit door.
In Northampton, Woke-achusetts- a coal power plant spend $50 million to upgrade its smokestack- as soon as it was done, it was forced to close. I don’t recall all the details- other than they spent that money- now out of business.
Why is it unreliable, Nick?
Many moving parts plus combustion. Also by-products – heat, ash, particles – and fuel extraction and transport.
you didn’t answer why it is unreliable Nick..After all, it IS the main technology that has been keeping the lights on for the past 100+ years.. YES..it does have it’s breakdowns, a la Callide C, BUT the industry has been able to maintain a near perfect 24/7/365 supply, for a LONG time, thanks to the ability to have redundancy built into the system.. Now it is being forced to accept a couple of other technologies, where no amount of redundancy can produce power after dark EVERY DAY when the sun don’t shine, and even during daylight hours we cannot rely on anywhere 100% capacity due to intermittent overcast skies, some lasting for days at a time.. Similar for wind… No amount of over installation for “redundancy” will provide th RELIABILITY of supply when the wind DONT BLOW.. Oh, you say..it’s simple, when it’s not blowing in one area, it will be blowing in another area… that’s your redundancy…BUT you omit to add theMASSIVE network costs and over installation to allow this to happen… No wonder we’re heading for $1+/kwh if we keep on this net zero madness. Electricity is far too expensive now and will become unaffordable for even the middle class when that happens..
Reliability is measured various ways and people often deliberately confuse the figures. In general terms, it is ability to meet dispatch. The window between bid and dispatch is the critical number. A very short dispatch window improves reliability. Then you have to separate trips from deratings and planned outages. Trips and deratings are often designated forced outages. Load factor is a different number again – that is where wind and solar are very low, even if they have few trips and very high availability.
Most companies runs GADS where there are strict definitions on the terminology Generating Availability Data System (GADS) (nerc.com)
In those terms, coal is maybe 75-80% reliable to generate at full load with a forced outage factor of maybe 5%
Geothermal and nukes generally have availability and load factor around 95%. Wind has a forced outage rate of around 20%
GADS Wind Availability Review (Weighted Resource EFOR) Dashboard (nerc.com)
Nick, there is nothing inherently unreliable about coal. Compared to solar and wind it’s far more reliable. By-product disposal is a separate issue.
So what special factors made Callide C so unreliable?
Politicians and wokies.
Before it blew up, Callide U4 was a very reliable plant. It had new turbine furniture installed in 2020 to uprate it.
Solar is reliable. You can guarantee that there will be no solar output each night. That’s what I call something you can rely on.
But when it comes to the needs of the nighttime customer, another word could be USELESS.
At this stage of debate, we can recall the “Yes, Minister” episode of the Florence Nightingale Award.
We used to laugh about events like this.
Now they inform government policy. Geoff S
plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose
Yes, you can’t do political satire anymore as you can’t think up anything more ridiculous than government policy.
The German Energiewende worked so well? Australia cannot notice Germany is expanding use of coal?
Australian politicians probably don’t know – the current lot aren’t the brightest bulbs in the box.
The current lot wouldn’t glow with electrodes inserted and voltage applied.
Callide C destruction was NOT caused by a hydrogen explosion. It was caused by asynchronous motoring backfeeding from the grid supplied power with no oil supply to the bearings. The AEMO report on the trips give more information on it
Are you saying that the generator had no oil flow to the bearings and yet was still connected to the grid?
If that’s the case, then they really have problems in their management at that plant. Who would consider leaving a generator electrically connected to the grid unless it was in sync and being powered by steam?
Read the AEMO report linked below. CB didn’t receive trip signal but ESVs had shut. But yes they ran the unit (turbine and generator) without oil. The hydrogen would have gone within a few minutes.
The reasons for the event are known to the industry, but the official report to come will lay it out.
The report indicates that the power plant had significant problems. I noted that the plant SCADA system was indicating power being generated and the switchyard indicated the generator was absorbing power. A 300+ MW error.
I’d call that a major problem. And no one noticed the tripped steam circuit to the generator and the lack of oil supply to the bearings.
How many alarms were going off…. or weren’t they, due to the DC control circuits being incorrectly fed, (off?).
Clearly problems exist. No wonder they want to close this part of the plant, a systems upgrade seems to be required followed by a recommissioning process. That costs time and money. Clearly not a venture to be entertained when the plant is only getting paid when the wind and sun aren’t performing.
And that’s why the grid is going to go black some time soon. No maintenance and no commitment to fix problems identified in the backbone of the grid.
It is a problem that can occur when you run parts of your DCS without a secure power supply. When problems occur, readings freeze. And the operators believed their screens. Confirmation bias. That was 3 Mile Island and Chernobyl .IIRC
There were Operations failures that caused them to get into that situation. First thing we did was make sure we wouldn’t have the same type of failure.
“We”, who is we and if you can reply, which power plant are/were you involved in?
A primary alarm should be triggered for a loss of control power/system update. Surely this is a priority for ALL plant?
I have written articles over on Cimate Etc where my bio is. They were also reposted here. I try to be very careful of what I write because there is a lot of info I know (some of which may not be fully correct) that is not public domain and there could be lawsuits that I would not wish to prejudice
The plant was a Toshiba (which was NOT the cause of the problem) with a specific design setup. It was also put into the state that caused the issue by operations not following procedures. I know of at least one other plant that had that issue similar to Callide U4 but that has never been publicly acknowledged. I have also got stuff on my work files of similar events where operators stuffed up their operating orders and procedures. That was the main cause of the problem.
It is very hard to eliminate deliberate human error in your control system.
Can’t fault human error, it will always win out, (often when you need it least).
It reminds me of the time Bahrain went black because of a small glitch at their smelter. It would have been a small glitch if only the first current trip sensor hadn’t been wound to max to avoid those nuisance trips. And of course, the other one upstream and the fact that the smelter and it’s independent power station should have already been disconnected from the grid. It was just one, (or ten), human errors from normal. Amazing what those pesky trip settings can be forced to do when abused. And yes, it was a hot summer day and there was no A/C accept for what your car could deliver and only until the petrol ran out.
Here is the AEMO reporton U4 event
Power System Incident Qld 25 May 21 Incident Report (aemo.com.au)
Both U3 and U4 are having their cooling towers rebuilt. That problem may be the cause of the delays.
More delays in expected Return to Service (RTS) for both Callide C3 and C4 – WattClarity
Sounds like cant generate anything like its normal output so would be in default of its supply contracts. Yes , most power is sold in direct generator to utility contract not through the spot market
Easy way out , go into ‘administration’ ( which is like Chapter 11 Bankruptcy) and can walk away from the contracts
Part of the plan. Guess where all that coal will be going and at what cost.
I can’t see why coal should provide a crutch for wind and solar. Consumers need to wake up and hold their political leaders, administrators, bureaucrats and anyone else fiddling with the power supply responsible. Sooner or later consumers will wake up, I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes. If it weren’t for fossil fuel wind and solar would have been a failure years ago. It is past time to take wind and solar off the grid and move back to affordable, reliable and clean fossil fuel. Australia needs to wake up and begin a nuclear program.
Coal is Australia’s first or second most valuable export depending on price, Australia being second to Indonesia in global exports.
The coal exported is about 50% thermal and 50% metallurgical.
The overwhelming amount of coal mined in Australia is exported, it follows that eliminating coal from domestic electricity generation has nothing to do with ‘saving the planet’.
AND, it should also be noted that not all coal is the same… The coal generally being used for electricity generation, at least in Qld, is NOT high quality export coal, but a much lower grade “high ash” cheap stuff that’s good enough for domestic power generation, but unsuitable for export as when you need to ship it long distance, the buyers want only the good stuff.. Therefore there is NO way you can relate export coal prices with what is being used to generate power here.. especially in QLD..
Just wondering how this affects the export of surplus power from Queensland to southern states. As I understood it, one turbine down is ok, but 2 means no power exported?
Queensland has a lot of coal and gas powered plant. Most of the time, NSW is a net importer. As I write this, they are importing 1400MW, most from QLD which is doing 5200MW on coal. NSW 4000MW on coal but about 300MW on a station about to shut down. VIC is doing 3800MW on lignite. Very little wind (~900MW). When the sun goes down. All the GTs will need to start so prices will double to about $200/MWh.
Here is an AEMO graph from the 2022 Q4 report comparing Q4 figures of the last three years. Q4 2022 Callide was down. NSW imports a lot, and it looks like QLD>NSW was down, but VIC>NSW remained high. Surprisingly, Vic was exporting to Tas.
Here are the corresponding Q3 results. This time, despite troubles with Callide C, Qld exported more to NSW, and Vic a bit less
One thing that is very important with interconnector flows like this is they only give an average. For the grid, it is the minute to minute stuff that is critical. I just looked at the grid again. The flows are now totally different to what I wrote earlier. QLD is now importing a bit of power, effectively from VIC. Looks like most of the coal burners are going flat out. LoyYang B is at 115% so they have apparently switched the feedwater heaters off to maximise output.
It is not surprising that Tas was importing. OpenNem shows
that over the full data history for Tas from 2005 they have imported 12.3% – and exported 10%.
Tassie Hydro are world champion bulldusters and have many conned with their yakka like “battery of the Nation” hilarious rubbish.
I should have added that TasHydro has huge debts north of ~$650Mill that TasGov tries to hide. Basslink has never made a profit and recently had debts in a similar zone to TasHydro. So total hydro debts have been ~$1.5Billion. Yet dumb mainland pollies talk of financing the proposed new “Son Of Basslink” with fancy name “Marinus”. Way too many Tas pollies. Everyone in Tassie must know or be related to a Senator.
Kissing Cousins ?
Here comes another one!
This is how the Brits solve intermittancy. Geoff S
Head in the sand. I can just see them all sitting around a campfire trying to keep warm. And that’s for the lucky ones that can get access to wood.
Those not so fortunate…. Soylent Green, who knows?
But you will be happy and own nothing. That bit can be guaranteed.
I saw that live and several times since. I still don’t know the answer to the question
I think British Labour’s plan is to shut down the economy. See, excess power capacity.
The Labour MP just keeps sayin’ “judge us in five years”. But I figure it often takes at least as long to fix a big problem as it took to get thoroughly stuck in it; so, in five years the nation is a shambles and you’re looking at five years to get back to merely the current mess.
Looks like there might be a buyout so the medium term future is secure.
Qld power: CS Energy looks to buy remaining stake in Callide C (afr.com)
“falling on deaf ears”
Those ears won’t be so deaf when the majority of the public is screaming due to extremely high energy prices and/or lack of energy.
Renewables CANNOT REPLACE fossil fuel powered plants. No matter how fast they build them.
Does Australia need to be a country without an electric grid before they figure it out?
“Does Australia need to be a country without an electric grid”
Hope you get there before the UK … but I fear we will beat you to the bottom.
When the electricity fails to flow and the lights go out, people become very angry and start to change their vote to those who will keep the power on. This time is near for Australia.