On line, but not on grid
Monday was the date Luminant's Sandow 5 Power Plant was supposed to have gone on-line.
It didn't, but Luminant maintains an earlier test run of the 581-megawatt unit has satisfied at least part of the complicated consent decree, issued by a federal judge, which governs Sandow 5's startup.
That leaves environmental issues which are back before Federal District Judge Sam Sparks. In July, Luminant sought a 59-day deadline extension over those issues.
The power plant is essentially complete and contractor Bechtel-Becon is tentatively scheduled to turn the project over to Luminant next Saturday, Sept. 12.
In a test run on July 3, Unit 5 generated power and was synchronized to the state's power grid, according to Ashley Monts, Luminant spokesperson.
"This satisfied (Judge Sparks) consent degree's deadline of achieving commercial operations by Aug. 31, 2009 (Monday)," she said.
However the commercial operation requirement was only one of two areas in which Monday was to have been the deadline date.
In July, Luminant said Sandow 5 would not be ready to meet the court-imposed emission deadlines and asked for a 59-day delay.
That matter is back before Judge Sparks as Luminant cites a clause known as "force majeure" in the consent decree.
"Force majeure" contemplates "circumstances beyond the control of Alcoa, its contractors or an entity controlled by Alcoa might cause delays in Alcoa's compliance with the decree," according to wording in Judge Sparks' original decree.
Luminant, in its July filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) cited weatherrelated delays caused by Hurricane Ike last September and some "equipment malfunctions" during initial testing as qualifying for a delay under "force majeure."
A delay of two to three months is forecast.
The other parties in the consent decree, and in the question of whether to grant a delay, are the U. S. Department of Justice and environmental groups Environmental Defense, Public Citizen and Neighbors for Neighbors.
The complicated legal structure is the outgrowth of a 2003 settlement of a lawsuit against Alcoa by the three groups over the aluminum company's three oldest Rockdale power units, Sandow 1, 2 and 3.
Alcoa agreed to shut down the half-century-old units and replace them with cleaner technology. That turned out to be Sandow 5.
There are currently only about 100 Bechtel-Becon employees on the Sandow 5 site, down from as many as 2,000 in the summer of 2008.
Through July, Bechtel and its sub-contractors have logged 6.5 million man-hours and Luminant employees about 400,000 for a total of almost 7 million man-hours.
The project is estimated to have cost $890 million.
Sandow 5 consists of a single steam turbine and two boilers.