With a growing generation portfolio elsewhere in North America, Canada-based Fort Chicago, the backer of one of two remaining proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects in Oregon, is also looking longer term to develop gas-fired generation plants around the Pacific Northwest. The effort will go forward whether or not its Jordan Cove LNG project at Coos Bay, OR, ever gets built.
One of the proposals that has been around for a number of years but not emphasized by Fort Chicago is a generation plant adjacent to the proposed LNG site along the south-central Oregon coast called South Dunes Power Project, an 50 MW gas-fired plant with expansion capability up to 120 MW.
"It is possible to do the generation plant without the LNG, and that is the way that it has always been pursued," Jordan Cove Project Manager Bob Braddock told NGI. The existing natural gas transmission pipeline serving the area has enough capacity to serve the initial size of the proposed power plant. "To go beyond that we might need some additional gas, or capacity to get it into the pipeline that feeds Coos Bay."
Greater reliance on intermittent wind supplies is increasing the need for more gas-fired peaking power in the Northwest, and there are natural gas pipeline constraints in the region west of the Cascade Mountain Range, which is where the population centers are located for both Oregon and Washington state.
Braddock said that early in the process of developing Jordan Cove, Fort Chicago and its backers considered developing a very large power plant adjacent to the gas receiving terminal. "We dismissed it, though, because it didn't make much sense," he said. "This was mainly due to the limitations we saw on the transmission grid, but over time as we talked to local utilities we found a pathway for moving the electricity out of the area -- both to supply the immediate area and to move it beyond that area."
From that point on the generation plant, scaled down in size, became a separate project on its own, Braddock said.
Another part of Jordan Cove that could be developed on its own is the 234-mile, 1 Bcf/d Pacific Connector transmission pipeline proposed between Coos Bay and the Malin gas hub at the California-Oregon border. That is where the El Paso Corp.'s Ruby Pipeline from Wyoming will terminate when it starts operations next June.
Could Pacific Connector, one-third owned by Fort Chicago, eventually bring Ruby supplies to the Oregon coast?
"It is tough to do because the distance makes it a tough pipeline to do without some increase in the amount of load west of the Cascades," Braddock said. "It's a possibility that comes up every so often, and we talk about it, but I don't know if the numbers make any sense."
Regardless of the gas infrastructure that eventually gets built, Braddock said it has become "absolutely clear" that more gas generation is needed to balance out the wind generation "surge" in the Northwest east of the Columbia River Gorge.
"It has just totally destroyed the [electricity] supply patterns. In the past, the Bonneville Power Administration hydro could do a certain about of balancing, but it has gotten to a point now where it is overwhelming their ability to balance."
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