Power Outage Crisis in Cuba Worsens Due to Felton Plant Boiler Malfunction

Thursday, June 13, 2024 by Richard Morales

Power Outage Crisis in Cuba Worsens Due to Felton Plant Boiler Malfunction
Felton worker cleaning pipes days ago - Image © Video capture / Canal Caribe Alterno

Granma Electric Company reported on Thursday that Unit 1 of the Lidio Ramón Pérez (Felton) thermoelectric plant has been taken offline from the National Electric System (SEN) due to a boiler malfunction. "We inform our population in Granma that Unit No. 1 of the Lidio Ramón Pérez thermoelectric plant has just exited the National Electric System, causing a frequency trip that affected line 5545, which supplies circuits in the municipality of Bartolomé Masó and the La Curva Substation," the company stated on its Telegram channel.

The malfunction had a significant impact on the distribution of electric power, as acknowledged by the Union Electrica de Cuba (UNE), particularly in the eastern region of the country. From a forecast of 750 MW outages posted the previous day on social media, the state-owned company admitted that "the maximum outage for the day was 1,221 MW at 8:50 PM, not coinciding with peak hours." The morning of June 13 began with 589 MW affected due to a generation capacity deficit. By midday, a maximum outage of 800 MW was estimated.

Widespread Outages Expected

"For peak hours, an availability of 2,030 MW and a maximum demand of 3,200 MW are estimated, resulting in a deficit of 1,170 MW. If conditions remain as predicted, an outage of 1,240 MW is expected," UNE stated in its Thursday information note.

In addition to the boiler issue of Unit 1 at Felton, Unit 2 of the same plant is also out of service. These units join the list of malfunctioning thermal generation units, which according to UNE, include "Unit 6 at Mariel, Unit 2 at Santa Cruz, and Unit 6 at Rente." Units disconnected from the SEN for maintenance include "Unit 1 at Santa Cruz, Unit 5 at Nuevitas, and Unit 5 at Rente."

Given this scenario, the Granma Electric Company warned its customers of outages "outside the planned rotation schedule by blocks." "Circuits will experience a six-hour service outage, followed by three hours of electric service, depending on the performance and availability of the country's electric generation," the company specified.

Impact of Recent Maintenance on Felton

According to a social media post by content creator Emilio Rodríguez Pupo, cited by official journalist Lázaro Manuel Alonso, Felton operators have begun the "cooling process for corrections." Rodríguez Pupo noted, "Significant increase in the generation capacity deficit, particularly in the east. The works will require at least 3 days due to the boiler cooling process. Increased water consumption is the main sign of a 'puncture' in the boiler tubes, causing the unit to shut down around 8:30 PM, as confirmed by Eric Milanés Quinzán, general manager of the Lidio Ramón Pérez CTE."

The reported "puncture" in one or more tubes at Felton raises questions about the quality of repair and maintenance work carried out by UNE as part of the government's strategy to restore generation capacity before the summer months. Although Miguel Díaz-Canel's strategy does not seem credible to the population, the leader admitted in late May that there are no guarantees that the summer months will pass without power service disruptions. "We will have prolonged maintenance until June to minimize the inconvenience of outages in the summer, especially in July and August," Díaz-Canel said.

Referring to the upcoming months, UNE director Alfredo López Valdés attempted to show optimism by stating, "We are aware that we are causing large outages, but there is a trend toward improvement." According to the director, no maintenance work is planned for any thermoelectric plant in July, but this does not mean that things will go smoothly. "We will have the usual breakdowns and limitations in the system," he warned.

Days before these statements, Energy and Mines Minister Vicente de la O Levy explained to Cubans the measures adopted in response to the complex and tense energy situation in the country. From the Lidio Ramón Pérez thermoelectric plant in Holguín, the minister admitted that the situation "is a nuisance, of course," but stated that "the levels of outages are bearable." De la O Levy praised the efforts of Felton workers, affirming that they are "going for sure," as he observed technicians making the regenerative air heater of the thermoelectric plant "practically new and built entirely in Cuba."

De la O Levy described how the condenser section of the CTE had "22,000 tubes that need cleaning." He explained how many tubes per hour, per shift, per day, and per week are involved in maintaining the Felton condenser. However, barely three weeks after Felton's restart and following the cleaning of the 22,000 tubes, another malfunction related to these elements occurred this Thursday.

Understanding the Power Outage Crisis in Cuba

In light of the ongoing energy crisis in Cuba, here are some key questions and answers to help understand the situation better.

What caused the recent power outages in Cuba?

The recent power outages were caused by a malfunction in the boiler of Unit 1 at the Lidio Ramón Pérez (Felton) thermoelectric plant, which led to a significant impact on the National Electric System (SEN).

How has the malfunction affected the energy distribution in Cuba?

The malfunction has caused a considerable deficit in generation capacity, leading to widespread power outages, particularly in the eastern region of Cuba. The maximum outage reached 1,221 MW, and further outages are expected.

What measures are being taken to address the power outages?

Operators at the Felton plant have begun a cooling process to correct the malfunction. Maintenance work is ongoing, and no additional maintenance is planned for July. However, the government has warned that usual breakdowns and limitations will continue to occur.

How long will the maintenance work at Felton take?

The cooling process and necessary corrections at the Felton plant are expected to take at least three days, due to the complexity of the boiler malfunction and the need to ensure safe operation.

© CubaHeadlines 2024

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