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Bpl Fires ‘Could Cost Firm $150m’

The scene at Clifton Pier on Sunday night. Photo: Terrel W Carey/Tribune staff

The scene at Clifton Pier on Sunday night. Photo: Terrel W Carey/Tribune staff

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Deputy Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net

BAHAMAS Power and Light Company could be facing a colossal $150m price tag to replace damaged equipment after recent fires over the weekend wiped out one engine and “compromised” infrastructure at the Clifton Pier Power Plant, Bahamas Electrical Workers Union President Paul Maynard estimated yesterday.

Three fires, the latest yesterday morning, caused damage to two engines at the plant, rendering one of these “shot”, Mr Maynard told The Tribune. The other, he said, will have to undergo an insurance adjustment.

In an interview yesterday, the union chief explained that not only were the engines damaged, but the foundation to which one is bolted was also “compromised” due to the severe heat the fires caused. As a result, he said officials are faced with between $100m to $150m to replace the engine and make additional repairs.

Meanwhile, Public Works Minister Desmond Bannister had very little to say of the situation at BPL other than telling The Tribune that an investigation will be conducted to determine the cause of the fires.

The first fire broke out at the plant around 10.30pm Friday, according to BPL’s CEO Whitney Heastie, who has since appealed to the public to assist the electricity provider by conserving energy so it can meet energy demands.

The second blaze erupted Sunday night shortly before 10pm - and Fire Services said that three units were on the scene.

Another fire erupted yesterday morning, around 8am. The damage to which Mr Maynard was referring happened after the first two fires.

It is unclear how this third blaze would have affected already compromised infrastructure and equipment. Mr Maynard suspected this happened because foam was not used to put out the previous fires. He said fire officials used foam the third time, which he said should do enough to keep future fires from igniting.

He rejected the assertion the situation was the result of sabotage, adding it was neither the result of employee negligence.

Officials said Saturday load shedding is expected to last throughout the week.

Asked to reveal the extent of the damage based on his walk through of the facility at Clifton on Sunday, Mr Maynard said: “I think one of them is shot. No one is worrying about that any more.

“The other, the insurance will have to do an adjustment on it. The thing about it is the building is finished. The building has seen a lot of heat and there are a lot of cracks in the foundation. It took a year to pour the floor, the engine is bolted down to the floor so the floor, because of the heat, is compromised.

“And so if you could imagine if you start it again it would shake that place to pieces.

“It’ll be $100m to replace one including the building, $100m-$150m, with long-term impact,” he said of the mountainous cost the day after the fires.

“But I say we use it as an opportunity. Clifton has not produced more than 50 to 60 megawatts of power consistently in the last 18 months.

“So whoever we deal with needs to be told that we need 120 megawatts of temporary power right away. They can install that while they doing what they have to do. They can install it within three to six months.

“That will take the load off the people with the diesel premium they are paying. That way you are now on propane.”

He continued: “You have two companies, either Shell (North America) or New Fortress that can move the world. They have plenty, plenty power. When I say power, I mean they have the capacity to do what needs to be done. That’s how we see it.”

During Saturday’s press conference at BPL’s headquarters, Mr Bannister explained why BPL would not announce in advance which areas will experience load shedding. He stressed there have been numerous incidents in the past where the broadcast of scheduled outages has endangered customers.

“It’s important to appreciate the advice that the safety authorities give to BPL,” Mr Bannister said.

“If you tell someone the power is going to be off, if you tell the nation power is going to be off in a particular neighbourhood and a particular time, then those people in that neighbourhood could be in danger.

“Over the years we’ve had too many incidents where people have been endangered; BPL doesn’t want to be responsible for that so we have to be very careful,” Mr Bannister said.

For his part, Mr Heastie added: “We do understand certainly there may be damage to people’s property or appliances as a result of just abruptly shutting off power. We think that pales in comparison to someone doing some other harm as a result of knowing or targeting an area that may be out of power.”

On Saturday, Mr Heastie explained a technician was making adjustments at a major diesel engine deck while bringing an out of service generator online when the first fire started and quickly spread down to a basement and throughout the station.

While there were no injuries, BPL officials said Saturday they could not assess the damage to ascertain how much money or manpower will be needed to effect repairs until the area is deemed safe enough to traverse.

Comments

Socrates 1 week, 4 days ago

this country must need to repent or someth8ng. every time you open the papers, you read about another 100 million dollar obligation on gov't, and by extension, we the taxpayers. i mean my god. all we need now is a hit by a Cat 5 storm and it will be game over... talk about frustration...

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joeblow 1 week, 4 days ago

If Mr. Maynard is so sure of what is NOT the cause, maybe he can enlighten us as to the real cause!

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DDK 1 week, 4 days ago

BEC and its administration continues to be a national disgrace, whichever way you cut it. "The other (engine), he said, will have to undergo an insurance adjustment." Does this oblique reference to insurance mean that the equipment was actually insured? What of the facility?

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Craig 1 week, 4 days ago

I cannot believe that they have to depend upon the Police Fire protection services to deal with such emergencies. All power stations, especially those that use flammable fuel sources such as diesel and bunker C, have fire protection systems, BPL's power stations are no different. The only difference is the fire protection systems, water sprinklers, form based systems and the like were probably not working, and probably haven't been working for years. With properly functioning fire protection systems in placed, and they were there when the plant was built, would have substantially reduced the severity of the damage. Maynard has even indicated in the report that the entire building needs to be condemned, and this apparently is an opportunity. Wow truly amazing, an opportunity? Surely he must have said that tongue in cheek. With all the cover up that is taking place in Clifton we probably will never know the root causes of the accident.

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DWW 1 week, 4 days ago

Surely this is all just coincidence that this has occurred right after the BPL union comments last week right? Some heads need to roll. Whoever was on duty when not one but all 3 fired started should be interrogated. Tell us who instructed who to do what? If not sabotage then it would have to negligence. But neglected by whom? Meanwhile aback had a relatively reliable summer after the 2 day fiasco of may. And then 72 hours after Maynard's dire proclamation there were 2 extended island wide outages. One was 10 hours the second was only 8 hours. Perhaps we would all be better off and the power would stay on if mr. Maynard kept his trap shut.

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TalRussell 1 week, 4 days ago

We comrade loyal subjects are not supposed use we liberty to question our gracious Queen, but why can't no elected government - solve the BEC and Dump fires riddles.... only positive is - none regular posters are rising up blog blame the Haitians, the struggling Unwed Mothers, nor "King's Counsel" Freddy, for BEC's and Dump's fires. Amen, that!

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Bahamianbychoice 1 week, 4 days ago

Am hearing Heastie ...against advise of the staff at Clifton Pier...gave a directive to start the engine anyway.. which resulted in the first fire..and has caused this chain reaction....So why is he not being held accountable....

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ThisIsOurs 1 week, 4 days ago

That is what happens when you put people who don't know about the requisite technology in charge. Being "smart" in another area is not enough. Power generation is highly technical area, putting expert telephone technicians, programmers, lawyers and finance professionals on the board is ridiculous and GROSS negligence . Dis only the first one...

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bogart 1 week, 4 days ago

Dont make no sense nohow nomore....asking for any investigation....it is what it is.......an know all dese money ....to fix .....school year after year....fix Hospital year after year...fix dis...fix dat....fix contract needin more money.....clinic....Gladstone Water treatment plant....fix Baseball stadiun......Bahamasair....Bank of the Bahamas...etcetcetc....an nobody responsible for billions of pore taxpayers money.....AT THIS POINT AFTER NUMEROUS EXAMPLES OF WASTING...... PORE ...AN.... RICH PEOPLE ...TAX ...MONEY.....an nobody responsible.....waste of time even asking for investigations......no sense yukking up ya vexation...save ya breath.......carry on as usial...give promotions...pay incrrases....give medals ...to all....nobody accountable nohow......nobody shame face nohow.......year after year..... ...mudda tek sic.....Save me some space Muddateksic....look Ilike I coming to join ya.....gat ma line, hook an fishingin bucket....

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John 1 week, 4 days ago

So did these fires have anything to do with the 30 r 40 (FOREIGN) workers BPL just hired and BPL's threats to get rid of them. OR did these fires just happen coincidentally at the same time. asking for a friend who afraid of the dark

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Bahamianbychoice 1 week, 3 days ago

I agree completely this is what happens when unqualified people are put in charge...makes you wonder why this is??? Re the foreign workers...who knows...nothing would surprise me ...I did hear Heastie requisitioned these workers and approved it...there was no mix up..just this CEO trying to duck and weave taking responsibility ...but again why is this government allowing this???

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Bahamianbychoice 1 week, 3 days ago

Also wasn’t it said the CEO approved the VSEP of the Director of Generation when he challenged the CEO over the purchase of the infamous turbo chargers..he along with others from the previous board..now apparently the most seasoned generation engineer in the country is retired..thanks to the CEO and Clifton has now had three fires??? Makes no sense..and we all suffer!!!!

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TheMadHatter 1 week, 3 days ago

The Article says ...

"Mr Maynard suspected this happened because foam was not used to put out the previous fires. He said fire officials used foam the third time..."

AND

"So whoever we deal with needs to be told that we need 120 megawatts of temporary power right away. They can install that while they doing what they have to do. They can install it within three to six months."

WHO CAN INSTALL IT? What group of idiots is going to install a multi-million dollar engine in a place run by IDIOTS who don't know how to operate a FOAM fire fighting system? It took them until the third time to use the foam? This was likely because the cube foam containers were empty and had to be refilled from the 55 gallon drums, and that no fire drills have been practiced for years.

One of two things needs to happen here:

1) Fire every single person who was working at the plant on any of the fire incident days. Pay them their severance pay and any other kind of crazy pay the union can think of. Pay them whatever to get rid of their idiotic butts. I bet the names of those responsible will come out to the light of day real quick;

OR

2) Divide 150 million dollars by the 300,000 persons in this country and pass a law in parliament that each citizen (man, woman, child) must pay into the Treasury that pro-rated amount by December 31st or face imprisonment. That's $500 each. If you have a family of 5 - too bad for you. Come up with $2,500 or your whole family goes to prison. This is just STUPID and unless something radical like this is proposed the average conch eating Bahamian will NOT understand the size of this catastrophe and be upset enough to call their MPs every 10 minutes and ring the phones off the hook. This will then lead to the action in (1) above - firing and/or finding out who the culprits were.

No serious action? You will get no serious result. Everyone will just keep quiet and go along as "normal" and we the taxpayers will get the pleasure of paying 150 million dollars and have to cut our corned beef budget in half.

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