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T&T blackout probe looks at human error

SCARBOROUGH — An employee at the Cove power plant in Tobago is being investigated for an “operator error” in relation to the nationwide blackout across T&T on Good Friday. The Cove power plant falls under the T&T Electricity Commission.

As for Trinidad, it was a 2009 deficiency in the design of an automatic bypass system at the National Gas Company (NGC) that resulted in the malfunction that led to the blackout, Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine said in the Senate yesterday.

Dealing specifically with Tobago, Ramnarine said after preliminary investigations it was determined that an “operator error” was responsible for the power outage. “The sister isle is supplied power via a submarine cable of 15 MW of power and the T&TEC plant at Cove Industrial Estate, which is capable of 64 MW of power,” Ramnarine told the House. “The loss of power in Trinidad caused the loss of four MW of power, which was at the time being supplied by the submarine cable.

“In attempt to pick up the loss of this supply, the three generating units at Cove Power Station were shut down due to operator error. “This resulted in a total loss of power in Tobago at 1:29 a.m. At this time, we were in a state of nationwide blackout. The operator error at Cove Power Station is under investigation.”

An NGC worker at the Cove Estate in Tobago told the T&T Guardian yesterday that T&TEC should be contacted for information about the operator error, not the NGC. Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) president Ancel Roget, meanwhile, said he had absolutely no knowledge of Ramnarine’s claim. The OWTU represents T&TEC workers.

“Parliament is the place where people make irresponsible statements and I am not surprised the Government would try to apportion blame for its inefficiencies,” Roget said. “I would take whatever Ramnarine says with a heavy dose of salt unless I see hard evidence.” In giving more information about the nationwide blackout yesterday, Ramnarine delved into technical explanations for its origins.

“The facts surrounding the origins of this incident takes us to 12:22 a.m. on the morning of March 29, 2013, when the Phoenix Park Gas Processors Limited (PPGPL) facility at Point Lisas had an emergency shutdown,” he said. “All natural gas coming into Point Lisas for use in Point Lisas, and also for power generation, passes through the PPGPL facility for processing and then distribution to the many downstream users. (Express)

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