CLARINGTON — Clarington’s new energy-from-waste facility will be delayed a second time because the boilers aren’t operating properly and the ongoing startup period could cost Durham Region an extra $1 million.
“I’d rather see it delayed and done right than rushed,” said Clarington Mayor Adrian Foster.
The Durham York Energy Centre facility, located in Courtice, was scheduled to be fully operational on Dec. 14, 2014. Now the Durham York Energy Centre is not expected to be in full working order until the last quarter of 2015.
The major systems of the EFW facility have been tested. The boiler temperature is high enough for the combustion process but the steam temperature isn’t high enough, and officials aren’t sure what the problem is, says Durham’s works commissioner, Cliff Curtis.
The steam temperature has to be high enough to drive the turbine-generator. If the steam is too cool it can damage the turbine.
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“It’s like running a car without oil,” said Mr. Curtis.
Covanta, the company building and operating the facility for Durham and York regions, has taken the boilers down for modifications, according to Mr. Curtis. It’s expected to take three weeks for the repairs and modifications. Then there will be a four-week demonstration period, followed by a 30-day acceptance test.
“We’re not getting the temperature we expected out of the boiler. Once we get the temperature up, I think everything will fall into place,” said Mr. Curtis. “It’s Covanta’s problem to deliver us the product that performs the way they said, so they’re going to take the time they need.”
The delay means added consultant costs for construction management, legal advice and baseline ambient air monitoring. A Durham Region works report said Durham’s share of the additional costs is $1 million, which can be provided from a temporary draw on the solid waste management reserve fund.
“What’s the final cost going to look like?” said Clarington Regional Councillor Joe Neal, who added he still has concerns about the emissions meeting the Ministry of Environment rules. “There are clearly issues with getting it started out.”
Since Jan. 16, Durham has been charging Covanta a $10,000-a-day late fee for every day the EFW facility is not fully operational. The invoice has been sent to Covanta, but it hasn’t been paid yet, according to Mr. Curtis.
In mid-February, the incinerator began burning its first haul of curbside garbage. It was part of a testing phase before the facility opens fully.
Durham cancelled landfill contracts and began sending garbage to the Courtice facility. Some garbage was burned at the EFW plant during the test phase, without producing power to the grid. Covanta has also been sending the trash to its incinerator in New York state, or landfills in the Niagara region.
Until the EFW facility is up and running, the Region only pays Covanta half price of the agreed upon per-tonne fee. However, Durham isn’t making any money until the plant is fully operational and selling power back onto the grid.
“We’re still on budget. I’d rather be getting electricity sales on the grid,” said Mr. Curtis.
The plant construction is coming in slightly under budget, according to the works commissioner.
There are a few loose ends that could end up costing Durham Region more money. There is still disagreement with former property owners on the value of the land expropriated for the facility, and a ruling is not expected until fall of next year. The final cost for the utility construction and connection costs is expected in coming months. The baseline ambient air monitoring runs until the EFW facility is operational, so the delay in opening means an ongoing monitoring cost.
“There’s some minor cost over-runs on some of the smaller items but generally we’re financially on track to bring this in on budget and we look forward to having it online by the end of the year,” said Mr. Curtis.
HOW THIS IMPACTS YOU
The Durham York Energy Centre is designed to process up to 140,000 tonnes of waste each year, and generate 17.5 gross megawatts of renewable energy — enough to power between 10,000 and 12,000 homes. A key part of the economic case for the energy-from-waste facility depends on it generating electrical power revenue.