Hydro knew dirty fuel bad for Holyrood, Dumaresque says

Danny Dumaresque claims negligence and poor decision-making by Hydro officials led to massive power failures at the Holyrood generating station over the past year.

Says officials negligent for using it without proper testing

Danny Dumaresque says Hydro officials knowingly used poor quality fuel to power the Holyrood generating station, causing numerous problems over the past year. (CBC)

Danny Dumaresque claims negligence and poor decision-making by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro officials led to massive power failures at the Holyrood generating station over the past year.

Dumaresque is an intervenor at Public Utilities Board hearings into the most recent island-wide blackouts in January. He's also a former director on Hydro's board.

During a news conference in St. John's on Monday, he said dirty fuel, not faulty parts, has been behind recent power failures that left thousands of Newfoundlanders in the dark and cold.

What's more, he says Hydro officials were aware of the problem, but still ordered more of the same oil from its supplier.

Dumaresque produced a document from Hydro to the PUB which noted fuel with ingredients such as aluminum and silicon should not be used at Holyrood because of the "detrimental effects caused, such as clogging, higher viscosity of fuel oil, and decreased flow of fuel oil."

He also cited an email from Hydro officials to its current fuel supplier, Trafigura SA, which stated: "As previously indicated, we are having operational issues at our Holyrood generating station, which we believe are a result of high concentration of aluminia and silica in recent shipments."

Hydro did not include limit levels for those two chemicals in its contract with Trafigura because they could not find a precedent for thermal generating plants.

Dumaresque, however, said a simple Google search turned up requirements and recommendations for heavy oil in such diesel engines, and the maximums that shouldn't be exceeded.

"The fuel was into the generating plant for one week (in 2013) when the unexpected occurred," he said. "Number 1 imploded and 175 megawatts of power was taken from the island generation supply and thousands of Newfoundlanders found themselves in bitter cold and stormy weather."

He said Hydro still ordered two more shipments at a cost of $50 million, even after discovering the problem.

Further, he said quality control rules called for testing of the fuel before it was pumped from the tanker to the Holyrood station, but no such analysis was done.

For its part, Hydro stated "it takes about three to four weeks to get results, long after the fuel is discharged and received at Holyrood."

Dumaresque, however, said two separate labs in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia said they could have results of aluminum and silicon levels within eight hours.

He said Hydro provided the results from four shipments, but not the time they were received. He said in all four cases the levels of those two ingredients were 25 times the maximum recommended for diesel engines.

"After realizing the trouble being created with this fuel, Hydro permitted two more shipments to be delivered," said Dumaresque"Furthermore, samples taken from the day tank in June 2013, which feeds directly into the diesel generating system, confirmed a combined total that was nearly 500 times the maximum acceptable level."

Dumaresque acknowledged he couldn't prove the dirty fuel caused all the recent problems at Holyrood. But he noted that Hydro admitted it had to spend more than a million dollars to replace parts and clean up two oil spills directly linked to the issue.

"There is an unmistakable record of negligence, which led to a crippling of the only source of peak power generation on this island to delivery of electricity to the people."

Dumaresque said he will continue to demand clarity on the matter before the PUB.

He also called on Hydro to cancel its contract with its supplier, Trafigura SA.