Latest Muskrat Falls Labrador-Island-Link software testing

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The latest version of software to undergo testing on the Labrador-Island Link (LIL) had to be pulled off the system last month before the testing could be completed, according to an update from Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro filed with the province’s Public Utilities Board (PUB).

“Due to the issues discovered during dynamic commissioning (testing), the latest version of software was removed from the system and replaced with the previous version to allow LIL to operate while GE (General Electric Canada) completes the software fixes,” the update letter states.

“LIL is currently operating in monopole mode on Pole 2 while GE completes an equipment investigation to confirm all hardware on Pole 1 is functioning properly after the issues experienced during dynamic commissioning. LIL can return to bipole mode once the investigation is complete and it has been determined that all Pole 1 equipment is functioning correctly.”

The update is dated July 7.

General Electric had completed factory acceptance testing of the latest version of software on June 8. The results were reviewed by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and it was determined the software was acceptable to be released to the LIL for dynamic commissioning, which started on June 14. That testing was expected to last two to three weeks.

“Partway through testing, GE discovered issues with the software and stopped the testing plan,” according to the update. “GE has completed its investigation into the issues and provided the findings to Hydro. Hydro is working closely with GE to define the full scope of software fixes and suite of testing required to ensure the root causes of the issues are addressed before approving the release of software for dynamic commissioning. GE expects to complete the software fixes and regression testing in July.”

Once software fixes are completed it will have to go through factory acceptance testing again before being released to the LIL to restart the dynamic commissioning phase.

Such setbacks have become a regular occurrence and have kept the massively over-budget and years-delayed megaproject from being fully commissioned.

Increased costs of $256 million announced last month were attributed to the delay in getting the LIL software issues resolved. Hydro has been unable to operate the LIL at full capacity or with confidence due to the ongoing bugs in each version of the custom software.

The overall cost of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project now sits at $13.37 billion.

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro president and CEO Jennifer Williams maintains confidence that GE will sort out the bugs and have a software package for the LIL of a standard that Hydro, and its customers, expects.

Williams said during the release of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro’s annual business and financial report on June 29 that while there are challenges with the software, progress is being made.

“Muskrat Falls is producing. We are delivering power over the LIL to island customers, as well as to Nova Scotia and beyond,” Williams said. “We continue to work with (GE) to advance the software required to appropriately operate the LIL at varying levels.”

Hydro’s annual report states that, in the near term, the reliability of the province’s electricity system does not rely on the commissioning of Muskrat Falls and the LIL.

“While we don’t require power from Muskrat Falls to serve customers, we’ve already begun to make good use of our new assets, effectively integrating them into our system, and using as much power as possible to reduce the fuel costs and carbon emissions at the (Holyrood thermal generating station), when possible,” the report states.

The document also notes that, in 2021, the LIL was energized approximately 40 per cent of the time reaching a maximum output in December of 424 MW — about 87 per cent of the capacity of the Holyrood station.

“We remain focused on bringing LIL into full operation, and continuing to deliver reliable energy to the people of our province, as well as our neighbours in Nova Scotia,” the report stated.