#DARKNL WAS BAD. A NEW REPORT ON LIL WILL LEAVE YOU COLDER.

 The recent release by the PUB of the second
Haldar Associates Report represents a timely and sobering analysis of the
findings of its investigation into, among other things, the reliability of the
Labrador Island Link (LIL).

The NL public should not need to be reminded
that last week marked the seventh anniversary of #DarkNL. That was a week in
which many people, especially those living on the Avalon, came face to face
with the worst consequences of public sector incompetence, a matter confirmed
and chronicled by the Liberty Consulting Group for the Public Utilities Board
(PUB). 

It also caused the downfall of an incompetent
Premier. Sadly she was replaced, successively, with a bevy of incompetent
successors.

The 2014
widespread outage could easily have had far worse consequences than those
recorded.

Unbeknownst to most people, the winter of 2021 might have
been the year, had the Holyrood Thermal Generating Station
been shuttered as planned. This is one of the takeaways of the second Haldar
Report.

A short history: A January 11, 2021 incident
report, internal to Nalcor, reported damages on eight towers due to the
formation of rime ice during a sleet storm in southern Labrador, a fact given no notice in the media
until after it was reported on the Uncle Gnarley Blog. When the Liberty Consulting Group employed by the PUB
reported in February, 
the public learned that the problem was worse
than initially noted. The consultant informed that “16 areas have been
identified as experiencing electrode line conductor damage…” in the ice
storm.

At the
time, multiple engineers confirmed privately to the author that the damages on
the LIL were far more serious than Nalcor was admitting. Those allegations
turned out to be true. Nalcor confirmed the following month that “[i]n total,
36 electrode line conductor spans required conductor splicing, repair, or
restringing, as well as 11 cross arms required repair or replacement.”

The
main repair work was completed by February 25, 2021, though part of the work
was performed later.

Liberty
noted that some of the repair sites required “snow clearing of approximately 65
km.” They essentially confirmed one engineer’s assertion that “after the first
140” kilometers (south of Goose Bay), off-road access and conditions along the
LIL are a “logistical nightmare.”

That is
because easy access via the Trans Labrador Highway ends and conditions,
including the period of the spring thaw, make the LIL service access road
virtually impassable by heavy equipment.

Last
year’s repair period ran for six weeks. The crisis of #DarkNL in January 2014
ran for just one week. 


The Haldar
Report informs us that the integrity of the LIL is essentially under threat
every winter season because 
the LIL is far more susceptible to extreme
weather events than initially forecast. 

The conclusion bears directly on the
robustness of the transmission line, referred to as the “return standard”. (
A return period of 50 years, for example, means the transmission
line is designed to withstand weather conditions that will occur on average
once in a 50-year period.) (Vol 2 CIMFP Vol. 2)

The
latest Haldar Report conducted a “revised reliability analysis” using a “more
extreme loading consideration” than that employed by Nalcor. The data
“indicate[d] a probability of failure of 10% and a return period of 1:10
years.”
 

Haldar’s assessment becomes even more sobering when “[o]ther
outcomes include consideration of regional correlation (mainly weather and
conditions affecting access for repair operations) and line length where the
return period could be as low as 1:6 years with an associated annual failure
rate of 16%.”

Haldar describes an optimal scenario in which, following a line
failure, “unlimited resources” are available including multiple repair crews,
heavy equipment, twenty-four hour work days, suitable weather conditions,
experienced crews and an understanding of the issues involved. Under those
ideal conditions, the Report states, “restoration could take up to seven weeks,
depending on the circumstances of the failure.”

The potential of a weather-induced line failure once every six
years implies monumental issues of power insecurity as well as life safety and
financial implications for the whole economy of the province.
 

The Haldar assessment was directed at ice loading and wind
conditions in parts of southern Labrador, the Great Northern Peninsula, and the
Avalon Peninsula, where extreme wind and icing conditions are almost legendary.
Local engineers freely acknowledge the problem of remote access for heavy
equipment during both the winter and the spring thaw. Others draw attention to
the analysis performed at the pre-sanction stage of the project as well as to
the warning of the DG-2 and DG-3 Reports of Manitoba Hydro International, the
PUB and, eventually, Newfoundland Power Co. Ltd. Each entity raised serious
issues with Nalcor’s LIL return standard, which the Public Inquiry validated. 
 

Worth mentioning, too, is that one of the issues on which MHI
did not cave to GNL’s and Nalcor’s interference in the writing of their
conclusions related to the issue of the proposed return standard. MHI wanted an LIL based
upon a return period of 1:150 years using an alternate supply, and 1:500 years
without an alternate supply…and “an even higher standard in the alpine
areas.”

Holyrood represented that alternative supply but closing it was the only basis Nalcor possessed for running with the Muskrat Falls project. 

Nalcor ignored the recommendation; the leadership was prepared
to risk seeing the public freeze in the dark rather than risk skewering their
dreams of megaproject stardom by preparing an honest project estimate.
 

Returning to the Haldar Report, however, in 2019, NL hydro performed an exercise to confirm the restoration time
of a TL failure. The outcome confirmed that 
“restoration
could take up to seven weeks, depending on the circumstances of the failure.”
Highly-experienced local electrical contractor, Locke’s Electric Limited, also
conducted an analysis for Hydro. The company, states Haldar, “estimated
restoration time frame of three to six weeks, depending on the scenario
including logistics and line location.” 

In 2014, the public was rightly furious after just one week of
extended and rolling blackouts. Think of a shuttered Holyrood plant and rolling
blackouts for periods of three to six weeks or longer? 

The LIL return periods were previously defined by Nalcor “to be in the range of 1:73 to 1:160 years.” They could only have been based upon icing and wind conditions anywhere else but here. 

Nalcor was warned and proceeded with the project anyway, without performing the necessary design changes. 

Not unexpectedly, Nalcor “pushed back” on the Haldar Report in its latest submission to the PUB, suggesting that the consultant’s conclusions were based on “extreme values” and were, therefore, “overly conservative”. 

Nalcor accuses Haldar of drawing conclusions based on a lack of historical data, they offer no evidence on which to support their position. 

It is now, therefore — not in the middle of a long period
of rolling blackouts — that we should be communicating with the PUB over the
under-designed LIL transmission line.

If the public was furious about being left in the dark after a week during #DARKNL, think of seven weeks – or more – of rolling blackouts.

 

Des Sullivan
Des Sullivan
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Uncle Gnarley is hosted by Des Sullivan, of St. John's. He is a businessman engaged over three decades in real estate management and development companies and in retail. He is currently a Director of Dorset Investments Limited and Donovan Holdings Limited. During his early career he served as Executive Assistant to Premier's Frank D. Moores (1975-1979) and Brian Peckford (1979-1985). He also served as a Part-Time Board Member on the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB). Uncle Gnarley appears on the masthead representing serious and unambiguous positions on NL politics and public policy. Uncle Gnarley is a fiscal conservative possessing distinctly liberal values and a non-partisan persusasion. Those values and opinions underlie this writer's views on NL's politics, economy and society. Uncle Gnarley publishes Monday mornings and more often when events warrant.

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