Río Turbio power station

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The Río Turbio power station is a two-unit, 240-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power station under development in Río Turbio, Santa Cruz, Argentina.

Location

The photo below shows the project in Río Turbio, Santa Cruz.

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Background

Sponsored by Isolux Corsán and making use of coal from the nearby Río Turbio coal mine, the station is projected to consume 5,400 tons of coal a day and produce 1.6 million tons of waste a year. Its construction prompted early opposition from environmental groups including Greenpeace, which sees Río Turbio as a key element in the Argentine government's plan to increase coal-fired electricity from 0.5% to 4% of the national market by 2025.[1] As of February 2014, construction of the US$350 million plant was 90% complete, with generation tests scheduled for December. National state coal mining company YCRT expects to have a two-year supply of coal stockpiled in time for the plant's opening. When it goes online, it will be Argentina's first 100% coal-fired power plant.[2]

In October 2014, the independent journalists' organization OPI Santa Cruz reported that the new power plant would likely miss its scheduled December 4 commissioning date.[3] The same month, Clarín suggested that the plant would not be operational until 2015 and reported that the Río Turbio mine was only producing 16% of the coal required to operate the new plant (19,008 tons per month vs. the 112,320 tons required). Clarín's article further noted that the mine's coal production actually decreased 3% between 2004 and 2014, despite the fact that the workforce had tripled from 994 to 2941 employees.[4]

In May 2015, Federal Planning Minister Julio De Vido reconfirmed the Argentine government's intentions to fuel the new plant exclusively with coal, despite media reports that natural gas was to be used as an alternative fuel source. As quoted in the Buenos Aires Herald, Mr. de Vido asserted that local coal reserves were sufficient to supply the plant for "at least 150 years."[5]

Unit 1 of the Río Turbio plant was brought online in August 2015[6] and officially inaugurated by Argentine president Cristina Kirchner in September 2015.[7] At the inauguration ceremony, President Kirchner asserted that the new plant would account for 1% of Argentina's total energy production.[8] Afterwards, Ms. Kirchner used social media to refute claims that the plant was incapable of operating at full capacity on coal power and that the plant would generate 1800 tons of ash daily, with no plans for its disposal. Ms. Kirchner tweeted that Unit 2 was 90% complete, with an anticipated startup date of December 2015, adding that within 90 days newly expanded infrastructure would allow the production and transport of over 100,000 tons of coal per month, and asserting that even at full capacity, the plant would only generate 618 tons of ash daily, all of which would be used in the production of slag cement.[9]

In November 2015 unit 1 was temporarily shut down for lack of coal. This was followed by revelations the government had explored making the plant run on gas, but officials now say the plant will fully run on coal. Completion of unit 2 has been delayed by financial difficulties, including nonpayment of workers.[10]

As of October 2016, operations at the plant remained paralyzed due to insufficient coal production. The Argentine newspaper La Nación reported that the Río Turbio mine was barely capable of producing 10% of the 100,000 tons of coal required for the plant's monthly operations, and attributed this shortfall to the misappropriation of funds earmarked for technological improvements to the mine.[11]

In December 2016, the Argentine government decided to finish the project, and reopened negotiations with Isolux, the plant's construction company. The plan was the finish the project by 2018.[12] However, since the project was underway, Isolux went bankrupt, and is now owned by a group of debtors. The government says that if it can't get Isolux to finish the project then it will finish it itself.[13] In May 2017, the state mining company announced plans to increase the mine's capacity, although the labor union was opposed to the plans.[14]

As of late 2017, neither unit of the Río Turbio power station was operational, and the project remained paralyzed by insufficient coal production at the adjacent mine. A feature story published by La Nación in September 2017 stated that future development of the Río Turbio power station remains contingent on the mine's ability to increase coal production from 80,000 tons annually to the 1.2 million tons required by the power station's two units, and noted that the entire project has been further paralyzed by widespread allegations of corruption and misappropriations of funds dating back more than a decade, with at least 13 pending lawsuits directed at former Argentine Planning Minister Julio De Vido and other government officials involved with the project.[15] In March 2018 the government announced that it had rescinded Isolux's contract to operate the plant, had taken possession of the plant, and would be conducting an evaluation to determine its future.[16] In September 2018 YCRT announced that the mine's production would be increased to 30,000 tons a month beginning in December 2018, which would be sufficient to power the plant.[17]

Project Details

  • Sponsor: Isolux Corsán
  • Parent company: YCRT (Yacimientos Carbon Río Turbio)
  • Location: Río Turbio, Santa Cruz, Argentina
  • Coordinates: -51.5460148, -72.2312558 (exact)
  • Status:
    • Unit 1: Mothballed
    • Unit 2: Construction
  • Gross Capacity:
    • Unit 1: 120 MW
    • Unit 2: 120 MW
  • Type: Subcritical
  • Projected in service: 2019
  • Coal Type:
  • Coal Source:
  • Source of financing:

Articles and resources

References

  1. Marcela Valente, "ARGENTINA: Adding More Coal to the Fire," IPS, May 10, 2010.
  2. "Argentina's first 100% coal-fired plant nears completion,", BNAmericas, February 27, 2014.
  3. "Técnicamente es poco probable que la Usina de Río Turbio, pueda entrar en servicio el 4 de diciembre de 2014", OPI Santa Cruz, October 23, 2014.
  4. "Río Turbio triplicó su personal pero produce menos carbón", Clarín, October 19, 2014.
  5. "Gov't denies media allegations over Río Turbio power station", Buenos Aires Herald, May 2, 2015.
  6. "Histórico: La central térmica de Río Turbio se unió a la Red Nacional", Minuto Uno, August 20, 2015.
  7. "Cristina inaugura parte de la central Termoeléctrico de Río Turbio", La Nación, September 4, 2015.
  8. "'Not wrong to argue, it is part of democratic life'", Buenos Aires Herald, September 4, 2015.
  9. "Cristina desmintió una nota de Clarín y aclaró datos sobre la Central Termoeléctrica de Río Turbio", Télam Política, September 4, 2015.
  10. "Río Turbio: al final, la usina solo funcionará a carbón," Clarin, Aug 11, 2016
  11. "La central a carbón de Río Turbio, paralizada y a la espera," La Nación, October 25, 2016
  12. El Gobierno decidió completar la central térmica de Río Turbio, La Nación, 5 Dec. 2016.
  13. Río Turbio: el Gobierno quiere terminar la central térmica, Big Bang! News, 8 Feb. 2017.
  14. Suman equipos para aumentar la producción en Yacimientos Carboníferos de Río Turbio, Télam, 9 May 2017.
  15. "Especial LN+: Río Turbio, una mina convertida en símbolo de la corrupción", La Nación, 10 Sep 2017.
  16. Isolux loses Rio Turbio coal plant contract, BN Americas, Mar. 5, 2018
  17. [1], Telam, Sep. 27, 2018

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External resources