By Myrna M. Velasco
First Gen Corporation is targeting to accelerate to construction phases its two new gas-fired power projects that could add up 1,200 megawatts (MW) to the country’s power capacity over the long term.
“For 1,200MW that’s possible, we can always accelerate Santa Maria and Saint Joseph,” First Gen President and Chief Operating Officer Francis Giles B. Puno said, adding that the two generating assets could have 600MW capacity each.
At US$1.0 million per megawatt rule-of-thumb development cost for combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) facilities, the two plants could command total investment of US$1.2 billion. The company added it now has leverage to push forward because the site for the two plants had been ready. “The site preparation for Santa Maria is already there, we just need to upgrade the transmission line,” Puno emphasized.
He further qualified that “the construction of Santa Maria will be faster than any coal-fired plant, if a coal-fired plant decides to ground break today,” adding that the proposed Santa Maria plant’s cooling pipe has already been installed plus there are other site preparation activities already completed.
With the advancement in gas turbine technologies such as the HL-Class that has already been made commercially available in power markets, Puno noted that they can opt for bigger capacity f 600MW each – apparently bigger than the 414MW capacity the company had in the San Gabriel facility.
“What we would be building is a unit that is larger than San Gabriel because the technology is advancing. The San Gabriel is already a very flexible plant – Santa Maria would even be more flexible, which will actually be very good for the grid,” the First Gen executive has emphasized.
He qualified that gas plant additions in the power system will be highly beneficial in the coming years with the government’s push for more renewable energy integration as underpinned by the Department of Energy-enforced Renewable Portfolio Standards.
Puno noted though that while they may aim for 2022 completion of Santa Maria and Saint Joseph plants, the hurdle could be the gas fuel that will then be needed for these facilities – hence, the alternative is to time it parallel to the completion of their liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal in 2023.
“Unfortunately, we can’t get gas from Malampaya, so it should coincide with 2023 or we’ll try to optimize one form or another, that’s the bottleneck,” he explained.
The commercial fruition of the company’s propounded 5.0 million tons per annum (mtpa) LNG terminal is also seen as the catalyst for gas market demand expansion in the Philippines and the needed stimulus for other generation companies to also consider the technology option.
“In our mind, the moment you develop LNG, all the others – even our friendly competitors will consider gas-fired power generation because it’s available. Previously, we didn’t have that option,” Puno said.
If the Santa Maria and Saint Joseph plants will reach commercial fruition, First Gen will already have six gas-fired generating assets in its portfolio – including its Santa Rita, San Lorenzo, San Gabriel and Avion plants which will then have aggregate capacity of more than 3,200 megawatts.