Malampaya gas restriction happens again


Over a week after the gas restriction from Malampaya was lifted, production was once again limited on Monday, affecting the country’s five gas-fired power plants and posing another supply shortage in the Luzon Grid.

Based on a Manila Bulletin report, the Ilijan plant was derated yet again to just above 700 megawatts (MW) from the 1,200MW it’s supposed to contribute to the Luzon Grid, according to sources.

Meanwhile, the plants owned by First Gen Corporation, namely Avion, San Gabriel, San Lorenzo, and Sta. Rita had to shift to condensate fuel, as the gas restriction affected four generating units. Condensate fuel is more expensive compared to Malampaya gas.

On Tuesday, Manila Electric Company (MERALCO) Vice President and Head of Utility Economics Lawrence Fernandez said that the Luzon Grid was still on White Alert, meaning that supply is stable. But at around 2PM, considered the daily peak demand hour, demand was at 10,339MW, while available capacity was at 11,965MW for an operating margin of 1,626MW, which is still considered a slim margin for that time.

Industry sources noted, nonetheless, that the grid can still hold due to relatively lower temperatures. The power industry’s rule of thumb is that for every degree of decrease in the heat index, electricity consumption goes down by around 100MW, and vice-versa.
The five plants are seeking an express pronouncement from the Department of Energy (DOE) on the real state of Malampaya’s reserves, particularly the exact date of the depletion. DOE Electric Power Industry Management Bureau Director Mario Marasigan said that the agency will meet with the concerned parties, after which it will inform the public of the situation.
Energy officials initially said that the first gas restriction wasn’t necessarily connected to the gas field’s depleting supply, but industry insiders said otherwise. Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, had also said that Malampaya’s reserves would be completely depleted by the first quarter of 2027, citing DOE data. 

Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate warned that the country would be in for a “much bigger energy problem” with the gas field’s dwindling supply, which reportedly would happen as early as 2022 — an election year.