When muscular market forces and juicy resource opportunities fall into alignment, the usual pace of power plant capital development can give way to a literal sprint. The 2010 development by Mercator Minerals of a new 45 MW gas turbine power plant at the Mineral Park Mine in Arizona is an example of the respectable speed at which an LM6000 PF Sprint plant can be bought, fueled, built and fired up. In this case, a grand market opportunity dropped into the in-basket of a mine CEO prepared to pounce: Mercator Minerals got the opportunity to sell, in a short delivery window, a great amount of copper/molybdenum ore concentrate. The opportunity was blocked by a shortage of electricity needed to mine it and concentrate the ore. A long-planned 220kV transmission line could not be permitted and built in time. Mercator recognized that a gas pipeline could be built, however, and was within the capabilities of Mercator’s construction resources. Solution: a gas-fired mine-site power plant. On Christmas Eve, 2009, Mercator summoned its power supply consultant to the mine.

Power plant engineers earn part of their keep by inserting a moderating element into these spirited discussions. But when the engineers met with Mercator’s CEO on Christmas Eve, they found themselves pressed “vigorously” on the spot for a review of plant and equipment options, and an AFE-level cost of electricity estimate. The mad pace continued: the final consultant report, and Mercator’s command to proceed, came before New Year’s Day. After a multi-month scramble to find financing and an investigation into used, gray-market and new turbine availability, the engineers located a new LM6000 high in GE’s queue and temporarily homeless due to a schedule change. All parties agreed that EPC would be too slow. Mercator undertook to procure and build the entire project, employing the consultant as the design engineer. The plant’s completion and entry into service in 2010 was no surprise to Mercator. For others involved, the project seemed to finish before it had a chance to start. The project, now running productively, is a vivid testimony to Mercator’s ability to move decisively to develop a power plant crucial to the Mineral Park Mine’s production commitments.

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