Major project: Powering the Pilbara

The South Hedland Power Station

The South Hedland Power Station has been delivering 150MW of the most fuel-efficient energy in the Pilbara since July last year.

The combined-cycle natural gas plant is the result of a joint initiative between the state government and Horizon Power.

An extensive procurement process funded by the WA Government and driven by Horizon Power awarded the contract to build, maintain and operate the station to Canadian energy company, TransAlta.

This followed two years of negotiations, designed to deliver power to the Pilbara at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers.

“This new power station will deliver residents and industry of the Pilbara, safe, reliable and fuel-efficient energy supply well into the future, with Horizon Power drawing approximately 110MW of power from the new station while also boosting jobs in the area,” WA Energy Minister Ben Wyatt said at the time of commissioning.

“This combined-cycle gas power station will provide essential energy supply for the rapidly growing Pilbara region under an innovative privately funded delivery model constructed under an agreement between the state government, Horizon Power and Fortescue Metals Group.”

IHI Engineering Australia was contracted as the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for the state-of-the-art 150MW combined cycle gas turbine power plant.

The plant incorporates three IHI LM6000PF gas turbine packages combined with a steam turbine to further increase efficiency.

The plant is also dual fuel capable, allowing it to operate on either natural gas or distillate enabling reliable and low emission supply.

“The opening of this newest power station marks the successful delivery by IHI of more than 500MW of power plant in total around the Pilbara, accounting for a majority of the available capacity in the network,” IHI Engineering Australia managing director Satoshi Nochide said.

“It is a key component of the Pilbara’s electricity infrastructure and will support economic development in the region for decades to come.

“The plant has been generating electricity for customers since July 2017 and will supply residents and industry throughout the Pilbara as well as major resource companies in the region.”

IHI commenced the South Hedland Power Station project for TransAlta in 2014.

“The plant consisted of one gas turbine unit in open-cycle and two units in combined-cycle configuration, which includes steam boilers, a steam turbine and air-cooled condenser plant,” Mr Nochide explained.

“In a combined-cycle plant, the exhaust from the gas turbine is fed into boilers to produce steam and generate additional power and efficiency.

“The plant was constructed in two stages with the open-cycle unit reaching commercial operation before the combined-cycle portion.

“The combined-cycle plant was being constructed and commissioned next to operational plant.”

Located in the remote Pilbara region, in northern Western Australia, constructing the project wasn’t without its woes.

“The project faced many challenges including the site remoteness, weather conditions, global equipment logistics and being the first LM6000 combined-cycle power plant in Australia,” Mr Nochide said.

The project combines plant sourced from around the world including Australia, Japan, China, Turkey, Thailand, Canada, USA, Sweden and Germany.

The strategy adopted during the project was to modularise plant to simplify site work and commissioning.


“For example, the largest pieces of plant were the two air-cooled condenser modules, each the size of an apartment building and weight about the same as an Airbus A380 jumbo jet,” Mr Nochide said.

“The modules had to be transported to site by road from the Port Hedland port overnight.”

The South Hedland Power Station is the first LM6000 combined-cycle plant in Australia, and one of the most environmentally friendly and energy efficient in the state.

It is able to provide low-cost, safe and reliable power for Port Hedland and Pilbara locals.

“With this latest project, IHI have proven capability to deliver both open and combined cycle gas turbine projects successfully for our clients,” Mr Nochide said.

“The power plant is the largest and most efficient in the region and is also dual-fuel capable, allowing it to operate on either natural gas or distillate for further reliability.”

Mr Nochide anticipates gas turbine generation projects will begin popping up across the country, especially as peaking power support to renewable as well as remote Australian grid generation.

“The future of the electricity supply industry appears to be trending towards smaller gas-fired generators combined with renewable energy,” he said.

“Our LM6000 gas turbine plant in both open-cycle and combined-cycle suits this market well in Australia both in remote areas of the Pilbara to peaking applications in electricity grids around the country.”

IHI has already delivered 16 LM600 gas turbine units around Australia.

“Including our boiler plants, we have contributed to major power stations in almost every state across the country; accounting for about 9000MW in total, or 20 per cent of the overall capacity in Australia,” Mr Nochide said.

“We are also developing many clean energy projects including solar PV power plants for our government and corporate customers.

“IHI is focused on providing solutions to meet current global environmental, industrial and energy related challenges and to continue supplying our range of technologies as well as our EPC and lifecycle maintenance services.”