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Friday, May 20, 2022
HomeNewsLocal newsSt. Croix Propane Conversion Under Way

St. Croix Propane Conversion Under Way

The V.I. Water and Power Authority completed the first day’s work commissioning St. Croix’s first generator to burn propane on Tuesday, which WAPA acting Executive Director Julio Rhymer said included final preparations for the Estate Richmond power plant to accept propane fuel from the LPG terminal next to the St. Croix power plant.

“There was tweaking of various systems by VITOL, and our plant personnel along with GE representatives made additional inspections of generating Unit 20,” Rhymer said.

WAPA’s Chief Operating Officer Gregory Rhymer, who is managing the conversion, said that by Wednesday morning, VITOL will be generating its own steam to vaporize the propane for the generators.

“Right now, the power plant is providing the steam necessary to bring the vaporizers on line,” he said in a statement. “The vaporizers are needed to change the liquid propane fuel to a gas before it is introduced to the power plant.”

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“On Wednesday morning, we anticipate firing Unit 20 first on oil to allow GE to gather key technical data before we switch fuel source from oil to propane," Gregory Rhymer said, adding that the switch is a process that can last as long as seven to 10 days.

WAPA is taking extra safety and security measures around the plant, according to the press release. Barricades have been strategically placed at key locations, both car and foot traffic will be restricted immediately around the Richmond site, and WAPA is asking people to generally avoid the area.

The potable water standpipe and the employee parking lot will remain accessible, according to WAPA; however, after mid-morning, the power plant and LPG terminal will be restricted to workers.

There are several phases to the commissioning and the process will include testing of alarm and fire protection systems. WAPA may need to schedule electric service interruptions.

“This process caps a two year development that has required long and difficult man hours, dedication and commitment,” Julio Rhymer said. “Our goal is to complete this project as safely and efficiently as possible.”

“Upon completion,” he continued, “the customers of WAPA, the residents and business owners of the Virgin Islands, will be on the receiving end of continued savings in the cost of electricity.”

 Also on Tuesday, St. Croix’s Fire Marshal Johnny Frontal gave V.I. Fire Service’s approval to transfer propane to the plant.

“I have personally observed the testing of the fire water system and the deluge system," Frontal wrote to WAPA officials, according to WAPA, “… and have found them to be in compliance with all applicable laws and codes.”

Once Unit 20 is commissioned, WAPA plans to commission Unit 16, another of the generating units that has been converted to burn three fuel types: LPG, natural gas and oil. Those two units can meet St. Croix’s peak power demand so, once both are online, it will mark the first time in WAPA’s 50-plus year history that the utility has used a fuel source other than oil to generate electricity.

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