Q & A with Aron Willis, General Manager, about Western Australia Development

Aug 1, 2014

On July 28, 2014, TransAlta announced it will build, own and operate a 150 megawatt (MW) power station in South Hedland, Western Australia.  The $570 million (AUD) investment will help meet the future energy needs of the region through a 25-year agreement with both Horizon Power and Fortescue Metals Group.  Below is a question and answer about the project with Aron Willis, TransAlta’s general manager for Western Australia.

What is the need for the power plant?

As Western Australian industry grows, so does its need for energy.  The South Hedland Power Project will produce 150MW to power Fortescue Metals Group’s port operations as well as Horizon Power’s residential and industrial customers within the region.

Where will the plant be located?

The plant will be located within the Boodarie Industrial Estate in South Hedland, a suburb of Port Hedland.  This location already has existing infrastructure including water and gas supply, substations, transmission lines, etc.

What is South Hedland and where is it located?

South Hedland is a suburb of the town of Port Hedland, which has a population of approximately 20,000 and is located on the north coast of Western Australia.  The port is the largest in Australia and serves as one of the export terminals for the Pilbara region.  The main export commodity is iron ore and the growth in iron ore exports that the port has seen over the past few years has made it the largest bulk minerals export port in the world. Further information can be found on the Port Hedland website here.

What is a combined cycle gas plant?

The South Hedland Power Project will be a combined cycle gas plant, which is a reliable, highly-efficient, low-cost and clean process of generating electricity.  A combined cycle power plant uses natural gas combustion turbine generators to produce electricity.  The hot gases produced from these generators do not immediately vent into the atmosphere, but instead are used to create steam through the heat recovery steam generators.  The steam in turn powers a steam turbine resulting in the production of additional electricity and increasing the efficiency of the plant. Once the steam runs through the steam turbine, it is condensed and returned to the heat recovery steam generators for re-use in the process.

What is the technology of the plant?

The power plant will be designed around the latest technology of GE turbines including two combined cycle LM6000 gas turbines along with one in simple cycle mode. The plant will be the most efficient power station in the region and will operate with very low emissions.  The design also utilizes an air-cooled condenser to substantially reduce water consumption compared to other available technologies.

What do the first stages of the project include?

Final engineering and design are now underway and major equipment orders will be placed in the near future.  The next critical phase will be completing all permitting and approvals, including environmental approvals and construction permits.  Most of these applications have already been submitted to allow as much time as possible for these processes to be completed.  Construction is anticipated to start in January 2015.

What other companies will be working on this project?

The EPC contactor we will be working with is IHI Engineering Australia. IHI has significant experience in designing and building LM6000 based power stations in Western Australia and around the world.  TransAlta has had a relationship with IHI since the mid 1990s when TransAlta was building its first facility in Western Australia.

TransAlta has also engaged Jacobs Engineering as its owner’s engineers for the project. Jacobs’ role will include detailed scoping reviews and design oversight as well as providing technical, safety and project management resources during the construction of the facility.

Are there opportunities to grow/expand the plant?

Yes, the plant is being designed to allow for expansion and there is a possibility that other customers may be added in the future.

What will TransAlta do to staff the plant?

During construction, we anticipate that the peak workforce will include around 250 people.  Some members of the plant operations team will be on-site for the construction phase of the project and the entire team will be in-place by the time commissioning is ready to begin.  Once the plant is completed in early 2017, we are planning on a local team of about 20.  We will staff the plant with a mix of new hires as well as experienced TransAlta staff.  We are still developing our final staffing plans for Port Hedland and will look closely at all options before finalizing our plans.  Our preference is to have some of our staff based residentially in Port Hedland, but we do not have all the information we need to make that decision at this stage.

TransAlta gives back to the communities where we live and operate.  Are there any community investment plans in the region?

We look forward to becoming an important and contributing part of the community and will assess some opportunities in that regard in the near future.  Organizations that align with TransAlta’s community investment pillars are welcome to submit requests here.

Aron Willis, General Manager, Western Australia

Aron Willis, General Manager, Western Australia