Whitehorse’s new gas generators won’t provide emergency power

The president of Yukon Energy says the corporation has always known that Whitehorse's new liquefied natural gas facility would not be used to restore power after short-term outages, and that it made this information public.

The president of Yukon Energy says the corporation has always known that Whitehorse’s new liquefied natural gas facility would not be used to restore power after short-term outages, and that it made this information public.

But this may come as news to many residents, who have consistently heard the utility justify the new gas turbines as a necessary source of backup power to replace Whitehorse’s aging diesel generators.

It turns out it’s not that simple. On July 10, just one day after Whitehorse’s new liquefied natural gas facility was up and running, the city suffered a power outage. To restore power, Yukon Energy’s remaining, diesel generators kicked in.

Just two days earlier, to announce the new plant’s opening, Hall said in a news release that the natural gas facility would be used “for emergency backup or for peaking power in the cold winter months.”

But Hall told the News today the utility had previously disclosed the fact that the natural gas generators would not be used for emergency restoration.

He points to transcripts from Yukon Utilities Board hearings held in February 2014, when Yukon Energy responded to a series of questions from the regulators about the capacity of the LNG facility.

“In terms of merit order, will the natural gas units be dispatched ahead of the Whitehorse diesel units? All other diesel units?” the utilities board asked in the document.

Yukon Energy responded that “in normal operating conditions the natural gas engines will be dispatched ahead of all diesel generation due to their lower fuel costs. In certain grid outage power restoration scenarios some diesels may be started ahead of the natural gas units depending on the location and cause of the outage and restoration plan.”

Hall acknowledged that Yukon Energy could have been clearer about that limitation in the months that followed. But he said he didn’t really think it mattered.

“We didn’t think it was a particularly material issue because these situations don’t happen that often.”

Hall said using diesel generators for restoration doesn’t change the economics of the project, because so little fuel is used during short-term outages. He said the LNG facility will be most important during droughts and peak hours, particularly in the winter when water flow is reduced and hydro power is insufficient.

“The business case really wasn’t driven by these restoration events,” he said.

Natural gas generators are not ideal for short-term emergencies because they can’t pick up load quickly, said Hall. When the city loses power, entire subdivisions need to be brought back online as fast as possible. Natural gas can’t do that as well as diesel.

The new LNG facility has two working generators, which have replaced two aging diesel generators that had reached end of life. The facility has room for a third natural gas generator, which could be running as early as 2017.

Hall said he thinks that third generator will be needed “at some point,” but said that will depend on population growth and economic activity.

Before the LNG facility was built, the Whitehorse diesel plant had seven functional generators. Hall said there are no plans to replace the remaining diesel generators within Yukon Energy’s 10-year plan.

He also said Whitehorse would likely need to keep some diesel generation available until LNG technology advances.

“You probably would keep a few diesels around,” he said. “It’s possible that in the future, they come out with an LNG engine that can pick up load quickly.”

But the project proposal submitted to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board in August 2013 states that all of the city’s diesel generators are scheduled to be retired by 2026.

“These retirement plans may also be advanced if Yukon Energy faces issues with spare parts, repairs or other considerations that shorten a unit’s effective life,” the report reads.

Rob Yeomans, a YESAB spokesperson, said whether or not the board was aware the LNG facility would not be used for restoration during short-term outages, the information may not have made much of a difference.

“It wouldn’t necessarily affect our assessment much,” he said. “We’d have to look at so many different things in the project proposal.”

Contact Maura Forrest at

maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dawson the dog sits next to the Chariot Patrick Jackson has loaded and rigged up to walk the Dempster Highway from where it begins, off the North Klondike Highway, to the Arctic Circle. (Submitted)
Walking the Dempster

Patrick Jackson gets set for 405-kilometre journey

Liberal leader Sandy Silver speaks outside his campaign headquarters in Dawson City following early poll results on April 12. (Robin Sharp/Yukon News)
BREAKING: Minority government results will wait on tie vote in Vuntut Gwitchin

The Yukon Party and the Liberal Party currently have secured the same amount of seats

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: The Neapolitan election

Do you remember those old bricks of Neapolitan ice cream from birthday… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Exposure notice issued for April 3 Air North flight

Yukon Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley has issued another… Continue reading

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Runners in the Yukon Arctic Ultra marathon race down the Yukon River near the Marwell industrial area in Whitehorse on Feb. 3, 2019.
Cold-weather exercise hard on the lungs

Amy Kenny Special to the Yukon News It might make you feel… Continue reading

lwtters
Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Most Read