• The San Juan Daily Star

PREPA asks PUMA to allow diesel to flow to SJ power plant

Unit 4 of the Palo Seco Power Plant in Toa Baja will begin maintenance for six weeks starting next month.

By John McPhaul

Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) Executive Director Josué Colón Ortíz asked PUMA Energy over the weekend to allow the supply of diesel for the San Juan Power Plant, because otherwise it would be necessary to start with selective blackouts as several generation plants go offline for maintenance.

“[Last] Monday through Tuesday we had to shut down Unit number 6 of this plant due to lack of fuel, in order to extend the operating time of unit number 5. If that situation had not been resolved at that time, we would have fallen into a deficiency generation, with the direct consequence of the load relays,” Colón Ortiz said at a press conference at Central San Juan in Puerto Nuevo.

“We had indicated that we were going to enter a multi-unit repair process that would require multiple units to go in and out of service consistently. We do not have all units available to supply electricity at all times,” the PREPA chief added. “If on top of that, the units that are supposed to be in service cannot be due to lack of fuel, that creates an unforeseen situation that puts us in a situation where we’re susceptible to load changes and we are not going to allow that.”

Last October, Colón Ortiz announced the exit of Ecoeléctrica in Peñuelas for maintenance on different dates in November and December. Meanwhile, unit 4 of the Palo Seco Power Plant in Toa Baja will begin maintenance for six weeks starting in December. Unit 6 of the Central de Costa Sur in Guayanilla is supposed to return to service at the end of December. On Jan. 17, unit 5 of Central San Juan is due for 16 weeks of maintenance, while unit 1 of AES in Guayama will go offline for major maintenance scheduled from Jan. 15 to Feb. 21.

PREPA and PUMA Energy are at odds because the company lost the $265 million contract to supply diesel to the public utility. PUMA Energy retained a $605 million contract to supply Bunker C fuel to PREPA.

Alternate sources of diesel fuel are currently not available to PREPA until mid-December. Therefore, the only facility available for this operation is the Cataño Oil Dock, which is managed by a group of companies including PUMA Energy and Best Petroleum. Novum, the company that obtained the contract to supply diesel to PREPA, contracted with Best Petroleum to use the facilities to supply the fuel. However, there is a valve at the Cataño dock that must be closed so that the fuel reaches San Juan Central. PUMA Energy claims it owns that valve and has not agreed to close it. The company made it a condition for closing the valve that it be awarded a one-year contract to bring diesel to PREPA’s other facilities, which was rejected by the public corporation.

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