Stem to stern: Floating hybrid power plants reduce CO2 

Seaboard’s CEO in the Dominican Republic, Armando Rodriguez, explains how the Estrella del Mar III, a floating hybrid power plant, will reduce CO2 emissions and bring stability to the national grid.

 

By Chris Kraul

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With a wide ranging portfolio of profitable investments from premium pork and the Butterball turkey brand in the US, sugar mills and jalapeño farms in Latin America, and containerized shipping and logistics throughout the hemisphere, Kansas City-based Seaboard Corp. knows good businesses when it sees them and isn’t afraid to go far afield to diversify.

 

Which helps explain why the Fortune 500 listed company decided to invest in a Siemens Energy SeaFloat power plant to be installed in the Dominican Republic by the company’s independent power producer subsidiary, Transcontinental Capital Corp. The floating, highly efficient 145-megawatt facility will use combined cycle technology to generate up to 145 megawatts of power, adding more than 5% of secure power supply to the nation’s peak capacity and, more importantly, helping stabilize an electricity grid that has suffered increasing brownouts in recent years as electricity usage has grown.

 

Seaboard sees an investment upside in the global trend by which utilities and industries are turning to reliable power supplies on floating devices to expeditiously meet growing electricity demand. The projects make a lot of sense where acreage for on-land power projects is at a premium and where electricity consumption is growing far from the established power grid, explained Armando Rodriguez, Seaboard’s CEO for Dominican Republic.

SeaFloat’s “plug and play” modular technology also fits well for oil and gas producers and other energy intensive industrial customers. Installed in countries as far flung as Bangladesh, Kenya, Ecuador and the Philippines; SeaFloat power plant technology can also be the solution for the electrification of islands and remote industries such as mining.

 

A floating hybrid sustainable energy solution fits especially well in a developing country like the Dominican Republic, where demand for power is growing at a rate of up to 5% per year, three times that of most industrialized nations, and where dry land projects can take the better part of a decade to materialize due to lengthy land use permitting and other red tape. The Siemens Energy SeaFloat barge-mounted power plant, ordered by the Dominican Republic’s main power utilities, will be inaugurated in early 2021, barely two years after the company and Seaboard signed their deal.

On location for on-demand electricity

Estrella del Mar III, as the floating Seaboard power facility is to be named, will be situated on a river in downtown Santo Domingo, and will connect with the national grid via 69 kilovolt cables. Inauguration of the new floating hybrid unit will take place after the power plant’s month-long voyage atop a semi submersible vessel from a shipyard in Singapore, across the Indian Ocean, around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, then north across the Atlantic Ocean to its final destination at the Caribbean island nation.

" We are very excited about this project because it will be a big benefit to the community in terms of the environment and the employment we will provide to the area. "
Armando Rodriguez, Seaboard CEO for the Dominican Republic

The electricity generated at Estrella del Mar will be sold to three state-owned utilities on a lowest bid, as needed or “spot” basis, a sign of Seaboard’s confidence that Siemens Energy's SeaFloat technology will make it the island’s most efficient electricity supplier. “Our business model is based on being the lowest cost producer we can be,” Rodriguez said. The SeaFloat unit can be started up in a matter of minutes to address outages. Noise abatement is guaranteed: the turbines will be quieter than the ambient sound in the capital, Seaboard says.

 

“Part of the appeal of buying from Siemens is that sourcing of the equipment is more effectively accomplished in a controlled environment like Singapore,” Rodriguez said. “Siemens is a world class company with technical know how and the capability to undertake this kind of project. We felt very confident going with them in that we’d get the product we want on time and on budget.”

 

The added electricity will be a welcome addition in the Dominican Republic where shortages caused the country’s three state-owned utilities to average brownouts or power losses during all or part of 40 days during calendar 2018. The demand growth is being partially driven by the evolution of the Dominican economy toward more value-added manufacturing. Once known primarily for textile assembly plants, the country is seeing the arrival of more high tech companies, such as medical instrument and supply firms.

Utilizing LNG infrastructure and combined cycle power

An added benefit for the Dominican Republic is that the SeaFLoat hybrid floating power plant with battery storage is boosting the nation’s conversion to more renewable energy and its move away from oil and coal-fired units. The project’s two natural gas-powered turbines will be complimented with one steam turbine to be powered by vapor created by the heat given off by the two gas driven units. That means the unit will provide up to 50% additional power at virtually no additional fuel consumption.

 

The unit will also feature innovative hybrid technology that combines a flexible combined cycle power plant with a battery energy storage system capable of instantly providing from 5 to 10 megawatts of power that aids in frequency and voltage regulation without affecting the output of the turbines. Battery power can also address outages while the turbines are ramping up. The clean burning natural gas needed to power SeaFloat’s two turbines will come via pipeline from a liquid natural gas (LNG) regasification plant located 35 miles from Santo Domingo.

" We felt very confident going with Siemens that we’d get the product we want on time and on budget. " 
Armando Rodriguez, Seaboard CEO for the Dominican Republic
Decarbonization on the Dominican Republic

The reduced CO2 footprint of SeaFloat’s combined cycle technology will conform well with the Dominican Republic’s efforts to gradually reduce fossil fuels usage in power generation to 69% by 2020, down from 84% in 2010, according to Seaboard’s Rodriguez. There is also a business to society benefit connected to the new floating power plant apart from less greenhouse gases. Studies by multinational banks including World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank show clear links between more stable, reliable power grids and improvements in economic and social progress benchmarks, including higher household incomes and better public health standards.

“We are very excited about this project because it is one of those situations where you have a project that will benefit the country, our shareholders, and will be a big benefit to the community in terms of the environment and the employment we will provide to the area,” Rodriguez said.

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August 27, 2020

 

Chris Kraul covers South America for the Los Angeles Times and various other media from his base in Bogota, Colombia.

 

Combined picture credits: Siemens Energy

SeaFloat floating hybrid power plants with the SIESTART battery storage system bring Siemens Energy latest, highly efficient gas turbine frames onboard – defining a new class of floating power plants. The evolution of open and combined cycle power plants from land to sea are based on our successful gas turbines series (e.g. SGT-800, SGT-A65 and SGT-8000H) - proven steam turbine series (e.g. SST-600, SST-5000) as well as our reliable generator series (e.g. SGen-100A, SGen-2000P).