Disputes between Bechtel Corp., San Francisco, and Duke Energy, Charlotte, N.C., have become a focus of those questioning cost overruns at Duke’s integrated gas combined-cycle (IGCC) plant in Edwardsport, Ind.
As the price of the facility—which is 60% complete—has risen to $2.9 billion now from $1.6 billion in 2006, the Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana and others are calling on the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to probe whether fraud, concealment and gross mismanagement are at play. The project already is under scrutiny because Duke hired a former commission attorney. The 630-MW plant is set to go online in 2012.
Among other things, the coalition questions whether Bechtel and General Electric, which designed the plant, “woefully underestimated” the plant’s complexity and cost by basing its scope on a similar but much smaller facility under way in Polk County, Fla.
E-mails made public by the citizens’ group in filings to the commission indicate Duke is upset with Bechtel at the cost overruns. “A significant amount of our problem is their [Bechtel’s] failure to properly scope this thing,” says a Duke executive in one e-mail.
The e-mails highlight a trail of problems. In December 2009, contractors working on a steam boiler dropped a 20-ton, 100-ft column after a lifting lug failed; the crew was rasing the member from horizontal to vertical. Bechtel declined to comment.
Angeline Protogere, a Duke spokeswoman, says the e-mails were taken out of context in the filing. She says many issues, including problems with workplace processes and site changes cited in the e-mails, have been resolved with Bechtel. Protogere adds that Duke and Bechtel have agreed to focus on completing the project and will deal with its cost after completion. She attributes cost increases to the IGCC plant being the first built on such a scale, with engineering changes continuing. Earlier increases were attributed to rising materials’ costs.