By Victor V. Saulon, Sub-Editor

MERALCO PowerGen Corp. (MGen) is looking at liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a possible fuel for a future power plant project, its top official said, pointing to the need of the country’s power system for that facility.

“We’re looking [at that option] because there’s a demand for mid-merit and we think LNG might fit that particular demand,” said Rogelio L. Singson, MGen president and chief executive officer, on the sidelines of a conference attended by representatives of regional distribution utilities. “So yes, we are exploring.”

Mr. Singson said he expects the next move for a distribution utility is to seek for a “greenfield” or new power plant project fueled by LNG, which is said to be the cleanest of all fossil fuels.

LNG will be imported in its liquid form for reduced volume and easier transport and undergo a regasification process locally. Several entities are in the thick of planning or developing a receiving terminal for imported LNG.

Mr. Singson said he sees the need for a new gas-fired power plant to serve the system’s “mid-merit” requirement. Mid-merit facilities can easily be switched on or off as the need arises. The entry of more renewables with intermittent power such as wind and solar would require a gas-fired plant as complementary source.

“I have to transition. No ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ as far as MGen is concerned,” he said, adding that previous PSAs with projects involving coal-fired power plants might not be acceptable now.

MGen is behind San Buenaventura Power Ltd. Co., which is pioneering the country’s first supercritical coal-fired power plant in Mauban, Quezon. The 455-megawatt (MW) plant is under construction and is scheduled for commercial operations in late 2019.

The company, a unit of the country’s largest power distribution utility Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), is planning to build an ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plant in Quezon province under Atimonan One Energy, Inc. The plant will have two units, each with a capacity of 600 MW.

MGen also plans to develop a two-unit coal power plant each with a capacity of 300 MW in Subic, Zambales. The project under Redondo Peninsula Energy, Inc. will support the growing power requirements in the Luzon grid.

Also in the planning stage is St. Raphael Power Generation, Inc.’s two-unit pulverized coal-fired power plant, each with a capacity of 350 MW, in Calaca, Batangas

Mr. Singson said his “best bet” for the next five to seven years is still solar and wind power. He said these projects have the “efficiencies” to address the immediate demand for energy while new technologies are evolving.

MGen aims to build a diversified power generation portfolio with 3,000 MW, including 1,000 MW in renewable energy. It is bidding for the 1,200 MW of power being sought by Meralco through a CSP,

“If we win the greenfield 1,200 MW, then it (MGen portfolio mix) will be 50-50 [coal and renewables]. If we lose, then it will be more RE (renewable energy),” he said. “It depends.”

MGen will pioneer the use of high efficiency, low emission technologies for its coal-fired power plants in the Philippines. It is looking for development opportunities in renewable energy across the country.