Puerto Rico’s electricity generation mix changed following earthquakes in January from natural gas-fired electricity generation towards a heavier reliance on petroleum, the US' Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday.
Two earthquakes, at a magnitude of 5.4 on Jan. 6 and a magnitude of 6.4 on Jan. 7 caused widespread power outages on the island, leaving approximately 900,000 of Puerto Rico's 1.5 million residents without power.
Both earthquakes were not far from two of the country’s largest power plants, Costa Sur and EcoElectrica, both of which use natural gas for electricity generation, with the former significantly damaged and remaining offline indefinitely.
"The loss of the Costa Sur plant, as well as reduced generation from the natural gas-fired EcoElectrica plant, shifted Puerto Rico’s power supply to predominantly petroleum-based generation," the EIA said in a statement.
Before the earthquakes, Costa Sur was the largest power plant in Puerto Rico with 967 megawatts (MW) of net capacity in summer. It generated 21% of the island's power and represented 52% of its natural gas-fired electricity generation.
However, after the Costa Sur plant went offline, Puerto Rico’s five petroleum-fired plants have increased generation to meet demand.
In the first three months of 2020, petroleum accounted for 60% of electricity generation, an increase from 38% in 2019, the EIA said.
Natural gas-fired generation, on the other hand, has fallen to 17% of total electricity generation during the same period compared with 41% in 2019.
Coal, renewables, and other generation sources have largely maintained the same shares, according to the EIA.
Two petroleum plants significantly increased their generation during the first three months of 2020.
Cambalache’s monthly average has grown from 12,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) per month in 2019 to 40,000 MWh per month through March 2020, while Mayaguez saw an increase from an average of 8,000 MWh to 20,000 MWh per month over the same time.
By Ovunc Kutlu