Labrador-Island link no longer close to full commercial operation: consultant’s report

ST. JOHN’S, NL — In what has become a common theme in its quarterly reports on the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project, Liberty Consulting Group said in its most recent document that little progress has been made in developing software capable of supporting the large-scale exploitation of the Labrador-Island Link (LIL).

Its 16th report to the province’s Public Utilities Commission states, “It remains speculative to consider that LIL has made material progress towards completion in the last quarter. Two major setbacks during this period left it at the end of the quarter theoretically where it was at the start of the quarter – without suitable control software to support full-scale operation or the final commissioning stages. service that precede commercial operation.

“We continue to consider it prudent to anticipate a continued failure to achieve commercial operation before or during this coming winter, and possibly well after. Nonetheless, LIL continues to appear capable of transporting power in quantities that can make a significant contribution to serving customer loads this winter, albeit at a capacity well below its planned capacity and without providing a source on which (Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro) can reliably depend on for planning purposes.

An announcement in June that the overall price of the Muskrat Falls project increased by $256 million was primarily attributed to the delay in resolving LIL software issues. Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro was unable to operate the Labrador-Island link at full capacity or with confidence due to persistent bugs in each version of the custom software. Thus, the entire Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project – at a cost of $13.37 billion – has not been fully commissioned.

“Two other setbacks occurred this quarter, each associated with an ongoing series of factory acceptance tests with a multi-year history of failures,” Liberty said. “These tests continued to reveal flaws that prevent reliable, large-scale LIL operation. The LIL must operate for 30 days in bipolar mode without interruption to pass the critical milestone of trial operations. Subsequently, the final adjustments should lead to its commercial operation. Numerous past shortcomings have prevented LIL from being ready or successful in conducting trial operations.

The report notes that the start of the third quarter brought another Factory Acceptance Test (FAT) on the new patched version of the control software.

“We learned on August 15 that software fixes had introduced a new flaw in the software components dealing with pole compensation – critical to the operation of LIL,” Liberty said. “A FAT to test a software release patching the newly introduced flaw began on August 15. The release under this test has four other known flaws that are not considered critical at this time. If posted on the site, the current version of FAT will support LIL operation for two to three weeks of dynamic provisioning activities prior to the start of a 30-day trial period.

“This new version may bring more sustained progress, but there is little basis to believe it will, given the continued stumbles encountered over many years of trying to fix it.”

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