Nevada Geothermal’s Faulkner 1 Plant Outage Explained

Nevada Geothermal Power Inc. announced that its 49.5-megawatt (MW) Faulkner 1 geothermal power plant automatically shut down on January 17th, due to a “ground fault” problem in the electrical control system.

The plant will remain off-line while a thorough inspection of the electrical system and underground cables is performed. NGP and its Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) contractor which supplied the plant and electrical systems, are working cooperatively to get the plant back on line as expeditiously as possible.

The initial inspection by the EPC contractor has determined that the plant automatically shut down due to a failure in the buried power cable system. Power cables leading outward from the control building were improperly configured, causing excessive heat to build up, leading to eventual cable failure in an isolated portion of the power cable runs. A replacement power cable system is planned to be installed which is estimated to take several weeks to complete. The power plant, including electrical controls, is covered by the warranty provided under the EPC contract. 

“Prior to this event, NGP experienced continuous, smooth operations since opening the Faulkner 1 facility just three months ago,” commented Brian Fairbank, President and CEO of Nevada Geothermal Power. “We’ve notified all parties affected by the outage including the firm that designed and constructed the plant. Our goal is to identify and remedy the problem expeditiously and resume operations at the Faulkner 1 facility.”

In a separate incident, an unused production well that had been previously drilled was in the process of being cleaned out and fitted with a slotted liner to prevent loose rock from sloughing into the hole when the well unexpectedly unloaded. This led to uncontrolled flow of geothermal fluid and steam at the surface. The well was brought under control using specialized equipment and work to complete lining installation has now resumed.

There were no injuries to personnel or damage to drilling or well head equipment. The well had not previously been used for production and the incident had no adverse effect on either the power plant output or on production levels of the geothermal resource. Federal and state authorities have been notified according to standard protocols. NGP is conducting a thorough review of the incident in order to ensure safe well operations.

“Although this has been a challenging week for all concerned, we are grateful that no one was injured during this incident. I am very pleased at the way our team and contractors worked together under difficult circumstances to bring the well’s flow under control,” Fairbank said.

NGP’s drilling program at Blue Mountain continues unaffected by the plant outage. The drilling program is aimed at raising production levels to 47 MW. Development well drilling at Blue Mountain is progressing smoothly and is under budget, the company said. Four wells were originally planned. The cost savings will be used to add two new injection wells to enhance the distribution of injected fluids and further augment Faulkner 1 power output.

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