Cogeneration plant hearing draws small crowd
Only two people showed up to speak at a public hearing
held by the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation
Council (EFSEC) last Tuesday evening on the BP Cherry Point
refinery’s cogeneration project.
They seemed, however, to represent opposite sides of the question. Bob Wiesen, a nine-year member of the Whatcom County Planning Commission, said that he was in favor of the project because of the kind of jobs it would provide both in its construction and operation.
Kathy Cleveland cautioned the EFSEC about the kinds of chemicals that would be released when the plant is up and running.
With no one else waiting to speak the hearing was adjourned within ten minutes, though BP Cherry Point officials and EFSEC staff stayed around to discuss the issues informally for about a half hour.
The hearing was required because of changes in BP Cherry Point’s original application submitted five years ago.
“This is the only refinery in the whole BP network that doesn’t have a co-gen facility,” said BP Cherry Point’s Mike Abendhoff.
“With the money we spent on electricity in the fuel crisis of 2001 when prices went up so drastically, we felt we needed our own source of power,” he said.
Both the former Georgia Pacific paper mill location in Bellingham and the ConocoPhillips refinery serve as host locations for co-gen plants, he said.
The power is generated by turbines, basically jet engines roughly 10 times the size of those found on aircraft, and fueled by natural gas by an existing pipeline to the refinery.
Originally the refinery sought to install three turbines but last June asked that their site certification agreement be amended to include just two turbines.
That amendment process required last Tuesday’s meeting, although both the EFSEC and the staff of the Washington State Department of Ecology are on record as saying that the changes would not lead to any new or additional significant adverse impacts not already covered by earlier permits.
The plant will generate a little over 500 megawatts (MW), enough electricity to serve roughly 350,000 average homes.
The refinery will use about 100 MW and BP will sell the rest. By contrast, the Intalco aluminum smelter uses about 480 megawatts.
Abendhoff said that “one part of the project is to run a pipeline to Intalco to use some of their water in our process, and when that’s operational the total use of Nooksack River water by both facilities after five years will decrease.”
Construction is expected to get underway early next year, and the facility is projected to be operational in about five to seven years.