Luzon, including Metro Manila, may be experiencing another round of rotating brownouts in the fourth quarter with the 20-day turnaround shutdown of the Malampaya gas-to-power project this October.
Based on a Manila Bulletin report, the Department of Energy (DOE) has been informed by the Malampaya consortium on the preventive maintenance schedule of the gas field as early as last year, but the department has yet to lay down concrete plans on how it can avert any rotating brownouts when the gas field will temporarily stop production.
According to industry sources, Malampaya’s downtime will run from October 2-22 and cannot be rescheduled because any deferment on required maintenance could affect production.
It can be recalled that gas production restrictions from Malampaya contributed to the imposition of the Red Alert on the Luzon Grid a few weeks ago.
Meanwhile, First Gen Corporation, which owns four of the five gas-fired power plants, said it already purchased liquid fuels since their facilities will need to shift fuel usage during Malampaya’s turnaround period.
When asked about how the government is preparing for the situation, DOE officials said they have yet to exchange notes and collaborate on targeted actions and measures for this very critical next development in the energy sector.
More than 3,200 megawatts of capacity will be affected once Malampaya shuts down. In turn, this would need comprehensive preparations from both the government and the private sector because that could exert pressure on the supply and would also trigger power rate hikes, especially that crude prices in the world market are now surging past $72 per barrel.
Even now, fears arise due to the DOE’s nudging on postponement of the maintenance activities of some power plants, which may eventually overlap the timeframe of Malampaya’s shutdown and may worsen supply troubles in the grid.