By Angelica Y. Yang, Reporter

THE 1,200-megawatt (MW) Ilijan combined-cycle natural gas plant will run on diesel oil during the Malampaya gas field’s scheduled maintenance shutdown from October 2 to 22, according to sources from the public and private sectors.

“During the Malampaya shutdown and due to gas unavailability, the Ilijan plant will be operating using diesel fuel,” KEPCO Ilijan Corp. (KEILCO) told BusinessWorld through its legal and external affairs department over e-mail last week.

The consortium that operates and maintains the Batangas-based plant said the facility holds three storage tanks containing diesel oil which will be used as a backup fuel source in case of an unavailability of natural gas from the offshore field.

“The available inventory in the three tanks will be used to operate the plant during the shutdown and any additional fuel needed to continue operations depending upon the plant’s load dispatch,” KEILCO said.

While diesel is more expensive than natural gas, it said that it is not in the position to discuss the impacts of diesel oil costs on electric power bills since “electricity prices may only be determined at the time of wholesale power spot market operations and are also contingent on IPPs’ (independent power producers’) power supply agreements with their contracted distribution utilities.”

The facility’s IPP administrator is South Premiere Power Corp., a subsidiary of SMC Global Power Holdings Corp. KEILCO, meanwhile, is in charge of the plant’s operation and maintenance, while state-run Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) supplies its fuel requirements.

The government agency separately confirmed that the 1,200-MW natural gas plant will be able to operate during the 20-day shutdown in October.

“During the Malampaya turnaround, there will be no natural gas to be supplied by the SC (Service Contract) 38 Consortium, hence the only alternative fuel for Ilijan power plant is industrial diesel oil,” PSALM told BusinessWorld through its Corporate Communications office in an e-mail last week.

The entity said it cannot give an estimate on the effect of the plant’s diesel usage on Luzon consumers’ power bills since “there are other factors other than fuel prices which affect the price of electricity.”

The Ilijan plant is the largest natural gas facility in the country. It sources its power from the Philippines’ only indigenous gas field.

The Malampaya project accounts for 30% of Luzon’s power generation and serves 20% of national demand.

The Independent Electricity Market Operator of the Philippines previously said that the Luzon and Visayas grids will have an average supply margin of 3,875 MW during the October billing month, based on its latest forecast.

Average supply in October is projected to reach 15,038 MW, while average demand will hit 11,162 MW, the market operator said in a briefing on Aug. 20.