Epic gas shortage prompts diesel burn

WESTERN POWER has requested Alcoa burn diesel in its Kwinana refinery power station for the second time in two weeks after yet another compressor station problem on Epic Energy’s Dampier to Bunbury Natural Gas Pipeline.

On June 29 DBNGP compressor unit CS 3/1 shut down, restricting the supply of gas coming down the pipeline.

A Western Power spokesman said the utility had “an informal arrangement” with Alcoa whereby Alcoa would burn liquid fuels during periods of gas supply restrictions.

He said this gave Western Power access to Alcoa’s gas entitlements.

“Alcoa has been burning liquid fuels to support this arrangement for the past two days [June 29 and 30] and previously about two weeks ago when there was a failure of one of the compression stations on the DBNGP,” the spokesman said.

Both Western Power and Alcoa said gas supply restrictions on the DBNGP were becoming more common.

As part of the arrangement between the utility and the alumina giant, Western Power pays Alcoa the difference between the more expensive diesel fuel and what it would normally pay for natural gas.

One energy industry source said this had cost Western Power about $700,000 in fuel payments since the arrangement was invoked.

However, the Western Power spokesman said that was not even a “ballpark” figure.

Neither Western Power nor Alcoa were prepared to say how much the most recent need to switch to diesel fuel had cost.

Both said the financial component of the “informal” arrangement was commercially sensitive. 

An Epic spokeswoman said: “At this stage we have not interrupted any firm services of our customers. We have only limited interruptable services”.

“We continue to manage the situation to help ensure the safety and reliability of the pipeline is maintained.”

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