|Floating Power Plants; Wave of the Future?
By David B. Waller
President, Polar Energy, Inc.
Floating power plants have been around for a long time. In fact, one of the early units, the 30MW "Impedance" is still in
operation some 50 years after it's construction. Since that time and particularly since the early 1990's, the growth of the
power barge industry has accelerated. Today there are more than 50 floating power plants (FPPs) operating throughout the
world and several on the drawing board. Why the renewed interest in FPPs these past 15 years? The initial answer was the
need to install fast, reliable capacity in countries experiencing severe capacity shortages.
Countries in South East Asia, particularly the Philippines, South America and the Caribbean found themselves desperately
short of power as their economies expanded. This situation was due in large part to the long neglect of utility infrastructure
and lack of funding for such projects. Consequently, state-owned electrical utilities turned to the private sector for a quick
fix and external financing. Power purchase agreements(PPAs) were negotiated with foreign investors under
Build-Own-Operate (BOO) and Build-Own-Transfer (BOT) contractual arrangements. Many of these contracts were signed
with companies that offered power generation barges, one of the few vehicles that would induce commercial financing for
power-generating facilities in countries that could not or would not provide sovereign guarantees of payment.
iDelivered to the site, the FPP, already tested and ready for operation, required only to be attached to it's moorings. The need to overcome land use issues, rights of way and local social issues were largely eliminated by the installation of FPPs. Even Fuel supply is afforded by water borne transport and transfer, eliminating requirements for fuel trucks, pipelines and landslide storage.
FPPs were constructed during a flurry of opportunity in the early 90's using a variety of generating technologies. Since
most projects were fuel driven, the availability and cost of heavy fuel oil being prevalent, opportunity was created for
medium and slow speed diesel technology, which took the lion's share of all the early FPP projects. However, gas
turbines were also barge mounted for the first time during this period, in simple cycle form, using both aero derivative
and industrial models mainly operating on No. 2 diesel fuel.
While the barge mounting of aero derivative turbines followed techniques used in military installations, the installation of
large industrial turbines posed special challenges. These challenges mainly concerned the isolation of the turbine
generator set, designed to normally rest on a monolithic concrete block, from the hydrostatic and thermal induced
movements of a structural steel barge. Several different solutions were generated that isolate the turbine foundations
from the barge structures, while maintaining the rigidity required of the turbine manufacture.
Complete combined cycle FPP delivered by ocean transport
Since the flurry of FPP construction in the 90's,
the pace has slowed, but the projects have
tended toward greater capacities and
In 2000, what is currently the largest FPP in the
world was installed in Mangalore, on the west
coat of India. The 220 MW combined cycle unit
is fitted with four LM 6000 turbine generator
packages, with chilled inlet air, each with a "Once Thru" heat recovery steam generator
and a 55 MW steam plant. This FPP was
constructed in record time in Korea and
installed in a riverside lagoon, where the design
permits the facility to vertical rise some 5
meters during the monsoon season.
|150 MW FPP for Orimulsion Fuel
|220 MW Combined Cycle FPP at Site
The power barge is much like a ship transiting the oceans of the
world; it is a legal entity, with a flag, state and a homeport
compliant with international regulations and operating under
maritime law. Under these circumstances, financial institutions
felt assured that the asset could be retrieved should the state
utility not meet it's obligations.
Financial issues aside, FPPs could be delivered quickly to meet
the urgent need for capacity. Assuming the availability of prime
movers, generators and other equipment, a 100 MW barge could
be delivered to site in less than 6 months. Site work can be
accomplished simultaneously with the construction of the barge
in a shipyard where greater control and efficiency of the
installation of machinery and equipment is possible than at a
remote green field site.
Fuels for FPPs have thus far been restricted to conventional petroleum based products ranging from heavy fuel oils to
naphtha and natural gas. The present high price for petroleum-based fuels and natural gas have prompted developers
to look to other fuels and different technologies to convert these fuels to electrical energy. Coal is now being
considered as a fuel for barge mounted circulating fluidized bed boilers and steam turbine generators and designs
are in an advanced state for nominal 100 MW units for installation in the U.S. Likewise, the use of relatively low cost
Orimulsion, proven as a fuel for medium speed diesel operations, is the basis for a planned 150 MW FPP for Asia. The
necessary addition of flue gas desulfurization (FGD) equipment on the barge adds to the complexity of design but all
can be accommodated on an FPP.
|520 MW FPP for New York City
To date, FPPs have been limited to installation in locations that are not subjected to wave action or high currents.
Heretofore, barge motions have not been tolerated in operation, the moorings restricting any movement other than
vertically with the rise and fall of rivers or the ebbs and flows of tides. However, the advent of an offshore FPP may have
arrived, that utilizes associated natural gas from offshore oil production. Designs are in progress for a 500 MW power
plant that can be moored in 10,000 feet of water, 200 miles offshore. The combined cycle facility converts AC generation
to DC for transmission through subsea DC cables to shore where it is reconverted to AC for connection to the grid.
|Modularized Coal Fired CFB FPP
|500 MW Offshore FPP with DC transmission
Issues of regulations, demarcation and permitting will necessarily need to be resolved, but the same standards for
emissions control used for land-based plants are assumed for the offshore FPP. The permitting function should be
eased considerably from that of the norm, by the elimination of local social issues, emissions modeling and the need for
secure water sources for cooling.
The future for FPPs appears promising, whether destined to supply fast track electricity to power undeveloped countries
or transmission locked developed locations. Reducing the capital cost of small to medium capacity power plants by
using modular construction techniques in low labor cost shipbuilding facilities may be the wave of the future, as may the
capability to generate electricity in offshore locales.
PEI: April 2004
|220 MW Combined Cycle FPP at Site
|Are Non-Nuclear Floating Power Plants an
Option for South Africa?
By Keith Campbell
Engineering News, February 15, 2008
While Russia could, in a few years, lease floating nuclear power plants to this country to help alleviate the current
electricity generation shortfall (see Engineering News February 1, 2008), South Africa could boost its power production even more rapidly by using non-nuclear floating power plants (FPPs).
FPPs can be built very quickly. If the necessary power generation plant is available, a 100-MW unit could be assembled (the barge designed and built, the generation plant installed) and delivered to the required location, in six months, according to
Waller Marine Incorporated president David B Waller.
Interestingly, Eskom is known to have acquired a power generation turbine from General Electric (GE) – this was built by GE for another customer who then cancelled the order, allowing the South African utility to snap it up. But now Eskom is
pondering where to put it and how to provide its fuel supply – pipeline, railway tanker, or road tanker? Putting it on a barge
would speed things up considerably and solve the fuel supply problem – it could be delivered by hose from product tankers
(that is, tankers that transport refined fuels, not crude oil).
Also relevant to the South African situation is that FPP projects in rapidly growing emerging market countries have often involved State-owned utilities turning to private-sector companies to supply both the FPP and the financing for the project.
This is done by signing power-purchasing agreements with the private-sector (often foreign) investors, using either build-
own-operate or build-own-transfer arrangements.
A fascinating aspect of FPPs is that they are legally equivalent to ships, not to terrestrial power stations. Each FPP is a legal entity, with a home port, a country of registration, and a flag, operating under maritime law, and in compliance with
international regulations – hence, the fact that the 50-year-old 30-MW FPP mentioned earlier has a name.
To date, FPPs have all employed petroleum- based or natural-gas fuels, but in the last few years, coal has been under consideration for 100-MW units intended for deployment in the US. Hitherto, FPPs had to be moored in sheltered locations,
protected from wave action or strong currents (tidal rises and falls are no problem), which suggests that places like
Durban Bay, Saldanha Bay, and Richards Bay might be the most suitable locations for FPPs in this country. However,
designs are under way for FPPs that can be deployed in the open ocean, up to 200 nautical miles offshore and in water as
deep as 9 000 m, which would eliminate the wave problem.
There are reported to be more than 50 FPPs in use
around the world. The biggest is a 220-MW unit at
Mangalore in south-west India. Built in South Korea,
it is moored in a lagoon, and its design allows this
FPP to rise vertically by about 5 m to cope with the
dramatic increase in the water level during the
monsoon season. And a 520-MW FPP is planned for
New York City, which has no affordable land
available for a new power station, but plenty of
water on which to float one.
An FPP is basically a power station mounted on a barge, and FPPs are generally constructed by shipbuilders. FPPs have been, and are, successfullly employed by countries in the Caribbean, South America and South-East Asia (especially the Philippines), in addition to India. Nor are they necessarily short-term options – one of
the first such FPPs, a 30-MW unit named Impedence, was still in operation 50 years after it was built.
Consultants & Developers to the Energy Industry
Domincan Government to Buy Energy from 3 Barges, Pay Debt
Domincan Today , October 28 , 2008
SANTO DOMINGO - Dominican State-owned power companies (CDEEE)
vice president, Radhames Segura, yesterday said an agreement was reached with a group of companies to buy 175 megawatts of energy produced by three barges, and 30 more produced by the company, Laesa Pimentel.
He said Polar Energy of the United States and Dominican Republic's Coste Enterprise will supply 205 megawatts to the power system as of April.
In a press conference Segura also said he expects to pay 64 million dollars of the pending debt with the power companies today to improve the electricity supply...
The original rational for the early FPP
today remains fast track capacity
where you need it at low financial risk,
but new reasons are surfacing that are
taking the FPP to higher levels of
capacity and complexity. Restricted,
high demand areas, such as New York
City, where land restrictions preclude
power plant construction and additional
transmission is limited, can
accommodate FPPs. What will become
the largest FPP in the world, a 520 MW
combined cycle unit, using GE 7FA
technology, currently in the permitting
stage, is proposed for installation in this
area in the near future.
The FPP, being of modular, transportable design is also
finding application to land based power generation. Since the
world shipbuilding industry trends toward the lowest cost
producer, FPPs or modular power plant units may be
constructed in the shipyards of Korea, Japan or China.
Projects are being developed using barge
structures to support diesels, gas turbines and
CFB boilers, constructed in Asian shipyards for
permanent land based installation in other parts of
the world, including the United States.
The use of
low cost labor and the efficiencies of
and equipment installation produced in a
shipbuilding facility afford significant cost savings
over conventional plant installation in high cost
The technical and commercial driver for this project is to
convert associated gas to an energy source that is more easily
transported to shore, there being certain technical limitations
to the installation of marginal gas pipelines in ultra deep water.
This concept of offshore FPPs may be expanded to provide
electrical power to offshore platforms and other production
units thus eliminating the need for platform based generation
and reducing overall emissions. This latter strategy is being
implemented in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea.
Additionally the concept can be extended to provide power to
future offshore installation, such as those contemplated for the
importation of LNG and CNG in the Gulf of Mexico.
|Hazardous substances: LNG carrier Margaret Hill
ex-Hoegh Galleon) lying idle
at Southampton this summer.
Tom Tatham-controlled LNG Partners has worked out a deal that leaves it with access to the floating liquefaction market after a creditor stepped in to buy it's troubled vessel. Polar Energy (Jersey), an affiliate of Houston-based Waller Marine Inc., is understood to have bought the 87,600-dwt LNG carrier, Margaret Hill, which Tatham's Maverick LNG had been hoping to convert for an FLNG Project.
Waller is one of Maverick's creditors and was heavily involved in the ship's conversion. A representative for Waller Said company officials are not yet ready to comment on the vessel purchase. In a statement to LNG Unlimited, Tatham said the sales agreement provides for Fortress Credit Corporation, the ship's mortgage provider, and/or Margaret Hill LNGC, the current owner, to cancel the transaction prior to delivery of the vessel in Dubai by paying an agreed fee.
He said this would preserve Maverick's ability to utilise the vessel for small-scale FLNG should acceptable financial arrangements be completed during such time. He added: "In the event the vessel is delivered to Polar as Provided in the sales agreement, Maverick has agreed to co-operate with Polar and Waller Marine, Inc. if requested to facilitate conversion of the vessel for FLNG use."
Margaret Hill became the center of attention this summer after it was detained by the UK's Environment Agency. The 35-year-old ship, which had been languishing in Southhampton for months, was reportedly sold for demolition to buyers in India by Fortress. The agency, however, said that since the vessel contained asbestos and other hazardous substances this contravened international law, which forbids ships containing toxins being sent outside the European Union or OECD countries to be broken up without special approval.
LNG Partners had originally been planning to use Margaret Hill for an FLNG project out of Kitimat on the west coast of Canada. The company's previous partner Merrill Lynch later hooked up with Teekay Corporation on a ship for the project instead. Maverick is suing Merrill for breach of contract in the US Courts.