Czech energy group launches tender process for €96m gas upgrade at Kilroot and Ballylumford power stations

Kilroot power station in Carrickfergus. Picture: Brian Lawless/PA
Ryan McAleer

THE Czech group which now owns the Kilroot and Ballylumford power stations has launched a €96 million (£82m) tender process to source gas fired generating units for the Co Antrim facilities.

Energetický a Prumyslový Holding (EPH) paid US firm AES £163m for a series of its assets, including both power stations, in April 2019.

Kilroot station, near Carrickfergus, has been on borrowed time in recent years, largely due to the fact it is mainly powered by coal and oil, considered an outdated and inefficient source of energy.

New environmental standards had been expected to force its closure by 2024.

Ballylumford, which is the north’s largest power station, is gas powered. But trade unionists have issued warnings over the future of jobs at the site near Larne in recent years.

But now a massive new investment by its Czech owners could potentially secure the long term future of both sites.

EPH, which is Europe’s biggest energy group, is controlled by billionaire Daniel Kretínský. It employs around 25,000 people, with annual revenues of circa €4.6 billion (£3.94bn).

The company has been buying up older struggling coal-fired power plants across the continent.

New documents lodged with the EU’s official journal reveal that EP UK Investments (EPUKI), a subsidiary of EPH, is seeking to procure gas-fired generating units on behalf of EP Kilroot Ltd and EP Ballylumford Ltd.

The total value of the tender is €96m (£82m).

EPUKI has declined to comment on the process. However in a summary published on its website along with the procurement documents, the company said the new power generating equipment will take the form of ‘peaking generation’, operating primarily on natural gas, but may be required to operate with a back-up fuel.

It also said the process will have the option for companies to sign up to service agreements.

“EPUKI is currently appraising options to develop its generation portfolio through investment in thermal asset new build in line with group strategy, the ISEM (Integrated Single Electricity Market) and considering the likelihood that some existing assets, particularly the Kilroot coal-fired units, which are likely to reach the end of their lifetime over the coming 3-8 years.”

The company has said the new investment could result in the generation of up to 600MW of power.

EPUKI also stressed that the project will need to meet UK and European regulations, orders, directives and standards.

“The project may be constructed at existing EPUKI brown field site(s) in Northern Ireland and integrated with existing infrastructure where sensible.”

EPUKI has indicated that potential bidders must be able to demonstrate an annual turnover of at least £160m in each of the previous three years.

The tendering process is due to run until March 2020, with the successful parties notified in September 2020 at the earliest. EPUKI said the equipment must be delivered within 12 months of the contract being awarded.

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