President Hugo Chavez may pray through his Santero mediums for the swift collapse of the evil Gringo Empire, but he’s not letting his mild anti-Yanqui feelings hinder his first priority, which is to save his own sorry… hide.
The Chavez regime is spending over $ 1 billion to buy 1,480 MW of thermal power generation units from US companies, including 600 MW of small-capacity turbines, and two thermal generation plants with a combined capacity of 880 MW. The government wants this generation capacity on line before end-2010.
Solar Turbines, a San Diego-based subsidiary of Caterpillar that manufactures gas turbines, has received an order from Pdvsa for 600 MW of dual gas/diesel thermal power generation turbines, about 45 turbines in all. The total cost of the deal has not been disclosed yet, but the turbines will be delivered in Venezuela by end-2010.
Pdvsa plans to use some of these turbines in its production and refining activities, freeing up power generated mostly by Guri. These turbines will burn associated gas, says Pdvsa.
But some of the turbines also will be installed in Caracas, probably at the Tacoa thermal power generation plant that Electricidad de Caracas operates in Vargas state. It’s likely that these turbines will burn diesel. They’re needed urgently because EDC’s existing thermal power generation assets are in terrible shape.
Most Caracas residents tend to think of Guri when they dwell on the national power crisis, which so far has not been felt in the capital. But EDC’s thermal generation assets at Tacoa are in such bad shape that up to 900 MW are at serious risk of going offline at any time, according to sources at Tacoa.
If 900 MW of EDC’s power generation go offline when Planta Centro is shut down and only 11 of Guri’s turbines are operational, Caracas residents certainlywill start feeling some of the pain that the rest of the country has been feeling since 2008, and in some areas (the Andes, Anzoategui) even longer.
The regime is doing everything it can to safeguard Caracas from suffering the intensity and frequency of power outages happening everywhere else in Venezuela.
People already are angry about the food and medicinal shortages, soaring inflation, insecurity. The missions have mostly dried up, and there aren’t many employment opportunities in the private sector thanks to the regime’s confiscatory policies and the incompetence/ignorance of its economic ministers.
The regime rightly is concerned that if Caracas starts to feel major power outages obliging a return to rationing, its streets and barrios could boil over very quickly.
The Solar Turbines units that are to be installed in Caracas will form part of the “ring of power” around Venezuela’s capital that was announced in March by Vice President Elias Jaua.
Solar Turbines of San Diego, California is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of industrial gas turbines, with more than 13,400 units and over 1.4 billion operating hours in 96 countries. The company’s products include gas turbine engines rated from 1,590 to 30,000 horsepower, gas compressors, and gas turbine-powered compressor sets, mechanical-drive packages and generator sets (ranging from 1.1 to 22 megawatts).
The company specializes in Power Generation Packages that consist of “factory-packaged” (i.e. plug and play) gas turbine-driven units with generation capacities from 1.1 MW to 22.4 MW.
In April, Basic Industries and Mines Minister Rodolfo Sanz said that the government would spend about $600 million to buy two gas-fueled power generation plants with a total generation capacity of 880 MW from General Electric. One of these generation plants will be installed at Sidor, but it’s not clear if the gas supplies will be available.
GE also has offered the Chavez government small thermal power generation units with capacities of up to 22 MW.
The Chavez regime’s “distributed generation” program is where the profits lie in Venezuela for international manufacturers of small capacity thermal power generation units.
Chavez said in February that the government would install 4,000 MW of thermal power generation capacity in 2010. By March that number had risen to 5,000 MW at a projected cost of $4 billion this year, part of a five-year, $14 billion plan to commission 14,000 MW of new mostly thermal power generation capacity.
But the regime isn’t inaugurating large-capacity power plants yet. All the action is in the rehabilitation of existing plants and the “distributed generation” program, a piecemeal Cuban solution for a structural thermal power generation and transmission capacity crisis created by the Chavez regime.
Corpoelec is installing up to 2,000 MW of “distributed generation” capacity nationally, consisting of small diesel-burning or dual use gas/diesel units with capacities ranging from 1.1 MW to 15 MW, for the most part.
Corpoelec launched this program at the start of 2009, aiming to install 1,000 MW last year. When Chavez declared a national power emergency in February, Corpoelec doubled the “distrusted generation” program to 2,000 MW by end-2010.
The regime says this program will end power deficits across the country by installing small-capacity generation plants in the towns and communities that have the greatest power deficits. However, in practice this is like plugging bullet holes with band-aids. They won’t end the power crisis, but could help the regime foster the lie that the crisis is over, at least for a short while.
These small plants will burn mostly diesel, because even if Venezuela buys dual use gas/diesel plants it doesn’t have the gas supplies until almost end-2012, and that’s if its offshore Mariscal Sucre project which Pdvsa now is carrying out by itself suffers no unexpected delays.