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Ridge Inks Salt Cavern Deal for Power Projects

Ridge Inks Salt Cavern Deal for Power Projects

Ridge Energy Storage (RES) is moving forward on a fairly large-scale power project that will incorporate the rarely implemented process of using compressed air storage to produce electricity. Ridge has entered into an exclusive arrangement with Texas Brine Company LLC (TBC) to develop up to 10 of these projects, with potential capacity to produce up to 600 MW each, at a number of Texas Brine's brine production sites at salt caverns along the Gulf Coast.

"You're essentially taking existing power capacity at night, running it at a higher capacity factor, utilizing that electrical energy to run motor drives on compressors that compress air up to a reasonably high pressure, over 1,000 pounds, and then putting it into the salt cavern just like you do natural gas," said Ridge President Rodney Webb. "Then you bring the high-pressure air out during the day, heat it and take it through an air turbine and use natural gas with it to operate a conventional combustion turbine." It's a tool to arbitrage power, he said, in which cheap power is purchased during off-peak nighttime or weekend hours, then converted into compressed air and stored until it can be converted back into power through a modified gas turbine during peak demand periods and sold onto the wholesale market.

Each of the proposed plant sites has access to natural gas pipelines, high voltage transmission and ample supplies of fresh water. The agreement places emphasis on operations in the southern U.S. where there is a substantial difference in the demand for electrical power between day and night.

Because most of the Texas Brine sites have existing salt caverns, the RES/Texas Brine agreement enables the facilities to be built quickly and efficiently, and will provide a desirable alternative to less efficient peaking plants in order to accommodate the region's growth in energy usage, the companies said. In the event a new cavern needs to be constructed, Texas Brine will provide customers for the brine.

The concept produces electricity with emissions reductions of over 60% compared to plants of similar size, according to Ridge. In addition, the plants use only about 50% of the natural gas required by other combustion turbine configurations to produce a kilowatt- hour of electrical power.

RES plans to begin its first project by year-end 2000 and to start operation in 2002. By year-end 2004, RES anticipates that it will have up to seven plants totaling more than 2,000 MW in operation or under construction. RES has acquired exclusive rights to additional sites in the U.S. and England.

Rocco Canonica

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