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Thermal Power Plant Had Problems Before Outages

May 25, 2007

A new thermal power plant in the Caribbean port of Moín had had multiple and serious mechanical failures long before last month’s countrywide blackout, the daily La Nación reported Monday.

The $44 million power plant had broken down 95 times since the Marubeni Corporation, a Japanese company, installed it in 2003. Between then and 2005, the plant was in full working condition only 30% of the time.

The plant, known as Moín III, broke down again in April when it sucked a metal fragment into one of its two turbines. The incident shut down the turbine and, along with other system failures throughout the country, sparked a nationwide blackout April 19 (TT, April 27).

The National Power and Light Company (CNFL), a subsidiary of the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE), purchased the plant and leased it to ICE until this year, when the institute bought it.

According to La Nación, problems with the plant began in 2003, with everything from oil leaks to failures in purification equipment and emissions regulators. An ICE report blamed the repeated breakdowns on poor manufacturing, though the CNFL has returned to Marubeni a $5 million bond it had held as a quality guarantee.

For its part,Marubeni blamed the breakdowns on lack of maintenance and training, and stated that the equipment had been installed in good condition. ICE officials said they have billed the company $93,000 for repairs of the earlier breakdowns.

Last month’s turbine failure, however, caused extensive damage and is expected to cost more than $8 million to repair.

Meanwhile, a turbine in the nearby Moín II power plant that also failed around the same time is expected to cost another $4.5 million in repairs.

It will take at least until next year to get both turbines running.

In related news, ICE officials assured the public this week that the recent shutdown of the Cariblanco hydroelectric dam –which President Oscar Arias inaugurated earlier this month (TT, May 11) – is a routine part of bringing a new power plant on line and will not affect the country’s power supply. Cariblanco is still under guarantee, according to ICE, so the contractor must pay for the repairs, though there’s no word on when the 84-megawatt plant will be up and running again.

 

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