Longer Than Expected Turbine Control Conversion Will Not Affect WAPA’s Propane Deadline

The time required to convert seven of the V.I. Water and Power Authority’s gas turbine controls from fuel oil to propane will take more than three times longer than originally estimated, according to WAPA Executive Director Hugo Hodge Jr. Hodge said that each island can run off 100 percent propane power with just two of the controls converted so the delays will not affect rate payers.

At a regular scheduled board meeting on St. Thomas  Thursday, Hodge asked the board to approve the extension of WAPA’s contract with Control System Technologies, the company that is providing technical assistance and project oversight of the conversion of the General Electric turbine controls, by more than a year.

The conversion of the GE gas turbine controls was initially expected to be completed by November 2014, but has been extended to March 2016 at an additional cost of $941,641. Hodge said the major factor in the delays has been changes in parts sourcing availability through GE.

While it was originally thought that the conversion of the gas turbine controls and associated systems could be completed in just five weeks per unit, WAPA now expects each unit will require 18 weeks or more.

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Hodge emphasized the importance of WAPA’s contract with Control System Technologies, saying that the part of the project they are overseeing involves all of the turbine units’ safety mechanisms.

"I would not be comfortable with executing the conversion of the units without having this group there assisting every step of the way to avoid problems during the start-up and commissioning of the units," Hodge said.

The board unanimously approved the extension of the contract and the increase in funding to keep Control Systems Technology on the job.

Hodge said WAPA has also experienced delays with the major overhaul of one of its gas turbine units and asked the board to extend a contract involving that unit from Dec. 16, 2014, to April 30, 2015. The reasons for the delay include rains that caused a reduction in work time, parts that had been ordered not being received on time, and a high velocity oil flush that needed to be completed due to excessive dirt and particles in the unit’s oil.

The cost of the overhaul also increased from $2,611,790 to $2,995,448. The board approved the changes to the contract.

WAPA and VITOL Virgin Islands Corporation’s project to convert the Randolph E. Harley and Estate Richmond facilities on St. Thomas and St. Croix to propane fuel is expected to reduce energy costs in the territory by 30 percent once it is completed. The permits allowing the conversion that were expected to be granted in January are still under review by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Also approved by the board on Thursday were:
– The time extension of a contract with Precision Ice Blast Cleaning Corp. to clean two Super Heater tubes from Feb. 15 to April 30. The extension is the result of delays encountered in other areas of the propane conversion project.
– The time extension of a contract to upgrade two generator protection systems from March 24 to Dec. 31, also necessary due to conversion delays.
– The continued rental of a spud barge from Pro Mar Services Inc. for $8,000 per fuel delivery until dock modifications, which are part of the propane conversion, can be made. WAPA estimates using the spud barge 14 more times at a total of $112,000 in addition to the $176,000 already paid to Pro Mar Services.
– The extension of the maturity date of the $8,125,000 VIWAPA General Obligation Note Electric System Capital Projects Line of Credit Facility with Banco Popular, and the extension of the maturity date of the $5,871,560 Standby Letter of Credit to APR Energy to satisfy the lease of a trailer-mounted combustion turbine also from Banco Popular. Both maturity dates will be extended by two years to Feb. 28, 2017.
– The extension of a contract with RG Engineering Inc. to demolish four IDE units from March 10 to May 15. Lead paint was found in some of the units’ components and additional work must be done to ensure the project is environmentally safe.
– The one-year lease of a condominium unit on St. Croix for the use of senior management staff for business purposes. The condominium will cost $30,000 for the year, and WAPA says it is more cost effective than paying nightly hotel rates when management travels between islands.
– The establishment of a bank account for St. Croix Solar 1 LLC and St. Croix Solar 2 LLC.

Present at the meeting or participating via teleconference were board members Juanita R. Young, Donald Francois, Cheryl Boynes-Jackson, Gerald Groner, Noel Loftus, and Elizabeth A. Armstrong.

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