WAPA's St. Thomas 'workhorse' Unit 23 going offline until fall, Unit 18 inoperable

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ST. CROIX - The V.I. Water and Power Authority governing board on Thursday approved contracts for work to be done on two of its St. Thomas gas turbine units.

Those actions were among a variety of measures the board approved at its regular meeting Thursday.

The major inspection and repair of Unit 23, once finished, will put the maintenance schedule back on track, officials said.

Officials plan to do the Unit 23 maintenance project in three phases: a major inspection; repairs of known major components; and repairs based on deficiencies discovered during the major inspection.

The inspection and repair is intended to improve plant efficiency and reliability, and will not impact the liquid propane gas conversion project, according to information presented to the board Thursday.

Unit 23 is expected to be back online by September, with the conversion to propane completed, officials said.

The board approved a $1,758,095 contract to Sulzer Turbo Services Inc. to perform the major inspection of Unit 23, the first phase of the three-phase project.

Phase II is expected to cost $965,215, while Phase III is expected to be $850,000, according to information presented to the board.

In addition to approving the contract for Phase I, the board approved a total project budget of $3,573,310 for all three phases, and authorized WAPA Executive Director Hugo Hodge Jr. to execute the documents for Phase II and Phase III without coming to the board for approval, provided the contracts fall within the budget.

Unit 18

The board also took action Thursday to address an emergency inspection and repairs of the Unit 18 gas turbine on St. Thomas.

Officials said Unit 18 experienced increased vibrations at the end of December, and a closer look in January revealed there had been excessive rubbing of internal components and other damage that rendered the unit inoperable.

"It was determined that the unit was not operable and would need a major repair immediately," the request for governing board action states. Unit 18 is in a "forced outage status," according to the request.

According to the document, once Unit 18 is working in combined cycle with Unit 15, a fuel savings of $6 million over a five-month period can be achieved.

The board on Thursday approved three items related to the repair of Unit 18:

- A purchase order for $230,000 for ACT Independent Turbo Services, Inc. to inspect and repair the Unit 18 Hot Gas Path Components. The completion date for this portion of the repair is estimated to be 42 days.

- The inspection and repair of the unit's compressor turbine rotor and inspection of the generator field with Sulzer Turbo Services for $387,760. For this portion of the work, the board approved a total project budget of $426,536 to allow an extra 10 percent to cover potential additional work discovered during the inspection. This portion is also expected to be completed within 42 days.

- The emergency reassembling and start up of the unit for $420,000 with Turboserve Corp., Inc. Completion is expected by April 30.

Dismantling some units

The board also OK'd the decommissioning and dismantling of a number of units at the Richmond and Harley power plants.

The eight units are deemed economically unfeasible to continue to maintain because of changes in production technology for water and the changes in fuel availability and requirements for power generation, according to information presented to the governing board.

The units are the Unit 10 boiler on St. Croix; the Units 11 and 13 boilers on St. Thomas; the Unit 12 gas turbine on St. Thomas; and the Israeli Desalinization Enterprises machines No. 1 and 2 on St. Thomas and No. 4 on St. Croix.

Removing the equipment will reduce insurance premiums and the areas where the machines were located can be used for new projects, officials said.

Hodge also said there may be the potential to sell one of the units.

Other business

In other action, the board:

- Extended for two years the lease agreement with Sam's Management for office space in Estate Altona on St. Thomas, and increased the square-footage of the leased premises from 5,500 square feet to 9,909 square feet. The monthly rental will increase from $8,400 per month to $13,400 per month.

- Authorized Hodge to finalize all documentation related to changing the maturity date on a standby letter of credit that had been required by an equipment lease. The maturity date had been Feb. 28, 2014, but WAPA wants to use the equipment, a 22-megawatt combustion turbine for another year, so the date will be extended. Additionally, the ownership of the leased equipment has changed from GE International to APR Energy, and the amount of the required standby letter of credit will be reduced from $7.8 million to $5.8 million.

- Approved a $30,000 annual lease for a two-bedroom condominium on St. Croix for senior management staff to use while on business travel.

- Authorized Hodge to sign a $331,440 contract with Vantage Energy Consulting, LLC, to perform a focused management audit of WAPA. The audit was mandated by the Public Services Commission.

- Increased the authority's vehicle maintenance budgets. The increases were for the St. Thomas Vehicle Maintenance Electric budget from $168,900 to $292,900; for the St. Thomas Vehicle Maintenance Water budget from $60,000 to $96,000; and for the St. Croix Vehicle Maintenance Electric budget from $231,250 to $481,250.

- Approved an amendment to a contract with SAIC Energy, Environment & Infrastructure, LLC, for an additional $50,000 for a total of $425,000, for continued work on WAPA's 2012 Electric Base Rate Case.

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