Major explosion at Mortlake Power Station

Mortlake Power Station explosion
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An explosion at the gas-fired Mortlake Power Station in Victoria has caused significant damage to a generator, taking the plant out of operation.

The explosion was caused by an electrical fault and damaged one of its two generating units at around 6am Monday 8 July. No one was injured in the blast.

Origin Energy, the operators of the plant, confirmed the accident has halved the station’s capacity.

An Origin spokeswoman told the Herald Sun that the electrical fault activated the generator’s fire detection system, and said the Country Fire Authority (CFA) were on site for more than two hours.

It is not yet known how long the plant may be out of operation, but CFA Commander, Paul Marshall, told 3AW that his initial discussions with Origin staff suggested it may take six months to repair it.

Mr Marshall said the explosion was “rather large”, and would “obviously take a while to rectify”.

“The energy that was produced from the explosion has brought a fair amount of damage inside that building,” he said.

However, there was no following fire after the initial blast.

“The bulk of the machinery itself is still in tact, but there has been a large outward pressure which has bent a lot of metal casings up, and has done significant damage on the inside of the turbine.”

Mr Marshall said it was lucky that the explosion occurred at the time it did.

“Certainly, if there had been any people in the area, there probably would have been injuries,” he said.

Gavin Dufty, Manager Policy and Research for St Vincent de Paul Society in Victoria, told 3AW that the Mortlake Power Station, operating at around 292MW, accounts for three per cent of total generation in Victoria. 

“Having this plant out might drive up wholesale prices a little bit. Households shouldn’t worry about that; any retailer they’re with will have insurance products there, so they won’t see a price increase now,” Mr Dufty said.

The “concerning” scenario for him, however, is that this outage comes in conjunction with the Loy Yang plant also being out.

“If both those plants are out come summertime when the heat comes through, we might have a problem. It will certainly present challenges to the Australian Energy Market Operator, which is out there trying to keep the lights on for everybody.”

Mr Dufty said that since the importance of gas plants in Australia’s energy network really kicks in during periods of increased demands.

“The important thing about a gas plant is you can switch it on and you can switch it off. You tend to use them either when prices are high – that’s when things are short – or when you need that little bit extra on the really hot days or the really cold days. 

“The [Mortlake] plant wouldn’t be running all the time, but it’s needed at particular times when there’s constraints, or when there’s high demand, effectively. So it’s an important plant at strategic times.

“Hopefully, the report back from Origin when they’ve got a handle on what’s going on will be a quick fix, and hopefully AGL can get Loy Yang A up and going. Looking at the forecast, if those units are all there, we should be fine by summer.”

More to come.

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