Ontario ups cost C$615 million for delayed tunnel to 2,000-MW Beck

Ontario Power Generation has increased the estimated cost of a new power tunnel for the 2,000-MW Sir Adam Beck hydroelectric complex at Niagara Falls by C$615 million (US$547 million) and delayed its estimated completion by 3.5 years.

The tunnel had been scheduled for completion by 2009, and then in June 2010. However, Strabag AG of Austria, the contractor digging the 10.4-kilometer tunnel, experienced slow progress due to “significant overbreak” caused by rock conditions in a Queenston shale formation. (HydroWorld 2/20/09)

In a May 22, 2009, quarterly report, Ontario Power Generation said the 2,000-ton tunnel-boring machine, dubbed “Big Becky,” advanced 3,794 meters by March 31, roughly a third of the length needed. In December, the contractor initiated a realignment of the tunnel route to minimize excavation in the Queenston shale formation. The realignment is to reduce the tunnel length about 200 meters to 10.2 kilometers.

The tunnel had been scheduled for completion in 2010 at a cost of C$985 million (US$876 million). Ontario Power Generation said the tunnel now is expected to be complete in December 2013 at a cost of C$1.6 billion (US$1.42 billion).

Ontario Power Generation said it is renegotiating the design-build contract with the contractor with a revised target cost and schedule. The utility said the contract is expected to be finalized in the second quarter of 2009, but added there will continue to be some uncertainty about the excavation cost and schedule.

Once completed, the new tunnel beneath the city of Niagara Falls is to supply additional water from the Niagara River above Niagara Falls to the Beck complex, boosting annual generation of existing turbines by 1.6 terawatt-hours.

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