Fire at Aussie power plant set to knock out unit for 12 months

Article by Adam Duckett

A FIRE at the Callide coal-fired power plant in Queensland, Australia has caused blackouts across the state, and the operator says it expects the damaged unit to be offline for a year.

Callide has two plants, each with two units. There was a fire in the turbine hall of the Callide C4 unit on 25 May. The operator CS Energy says there were reports of explosions too. It says it does not know the cause of the incident at Callide C, which was commissioned in 2001 and was Australia’s first supercritical coal-fired plant.

The company said unit C4 has experienced major damage and failure of the turbine.

It issued a statement that says: “It is too early to say with certainty when unit 4 will be operational again, however based on currently available information, we have informed the market operator this morning that the unit will be available in 12 months. As we know more, we will share this information.”

No one was injured in the incident, which caused two of the site’s other units to trip out; while the remaining third unit was already offline for maintenance.

The Australia Energy Market Operator (AEMO) said the outage caused interruptions at other plants, resulting in a loss of around 3,100 MW across the state. Approximately 2,300 MW of customer demand in Queensland and 40 MW in New South Wales was interrupted. The result was widespread power outages across the state, which led authorities to ask customers to help limit the disruption by conserving power and to drive safely as traffic lights were out. Some 500,000 customers were affected, though reports are that most supplies had been restored within hours.

CS Energy says it expects all three undamaged units will be back online by 9 June.

The incident and resulting outages have prompted supporters of coal, including Callide MP Colin Boyce, to argue that more plants are needed to shore up baseload power. Richie Merzian, Director, Climate & Energy Program at the Australia Institute told The Guardian that the impact produced by a single plant shows the need for greater diversification.

Article by Adam Duckett

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