By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
The Durham York Energy Centre is not expected to be fully operational until August, well past its initial December 2014 deadline.
That’s according to Greg Borchuk, a project manager with the Region of Durham.
“What we should’ve started in the September time frame, the three to four months worth of commissioning, testing and start up, that didn’t really start up until February,” he tells The Oshawa Express. “That pushed it out, so we’re in that start up and commissioning stage now.”
As of Jan. 12, as part of its contract with the region, Covanta – the private operator of the incinerator – must pay Durham $10,000 for each day the plant is not online. This means that as of April 22, the payments will total $1 million.
Borchuk explains the delay comes down to construction taking much longer than was expected.
“Construction was supposed to have been completed by, I would say, late last summer or early fall and then we’d be in the commissioning and start up phase through the fall and have the plant running in December,” he says. “Because the construction took them longer than anticipated, that really pushed the overall schedule by six to seven months.”
There has been some progress at the site, with the incinerator’s power-generating abilities being shown as working.
“We have recently tied into the Hydro One and provincial grid for electricity. We checked that system out in the past week, and that works,” he says.
At the last meeting of regional council, Cliff Curtis, the region’s works commissioner, said that the plant was briefly taken offline earlier this year.
“Covanta has done a run off on the boilers that was paired with garbage. They recently took the plant down again to do some tweaking and some modifications for some of the issues that they found,” he said at the April 1 meeting. “They’re starting up again with natural gas and they’re going to go through a…testing period, still, to make sure that they can actually meet their performance guarantees with respect to throughput and the emissions.”
Borchuck says that Curtis may have been referring to what he sees as part of the job when it comes to setting up new equipment: it doesn’t always work the way it should right out of the box.
“When you put any brand new machine or equipment together, there is always pieces that don’t quite work the way they should, so either you have to kick them out of commission, tune them, fix them or in some cases replace them because the part was defective,” he says, adding that the incinerator is now burning waste again.
Now, the plan is to keep moving through the various stages of completion so that the plant can be fully operational, Borchuk says.
“So we’re knocking off systems and progressing toward the acceptance test period, which will be when the plant has to be run full throttle for a month to be fully compliant with the region’s contract and all the environmental standards that have to be met,” he says. “If they pass all of that, we would be in a position to issue them a certificate to say that they’re good to go.”
If all progresses, the plant should be fully operational by August, he adds.