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TransAlta picks up option on Tidewater pipeline, sets 2019 financial targets

TransAlta Corp. has opted to buy a 50% stake in an under-construction natural gas pipeline for C$90 million that will enable power plants in central Alberta to be switched from coal fueling.

The company exercised an option to buy the stake in the line from Tidewater Midstream and Infrastructure Ltd. as part of its fuel-switching program at its Keephills and Sundance coal facilities located west of Edmonton, Alberta. The 120-kilometer line, which will have initial throughput of 130 MMcf/d, can be expanded to carry as much as 440 MMcf/d, TransAlta said in a statement. The deal is subject to approval by regulators.

The Calgary, Alberta-based company needs the line to insure gas supply as it initially co-fires units at the plants, then switches to full gas fueling to save on the cost of emissions levies and meet a government-imposed deadline to quit coal-firing by 2030. The conduit will link Tidewater's processing facilities in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with TransAlta's plants and offers the potential to transport fuel to Capital Power Corp.'s Genesee coal-fired plant, which is located nearby. The line is expected to enter service by the second half of 2019.

Separately, TransAlta said it expects to have free cash flow of between C$270 million and C$330 million in 2019 and comparable EBITDA of between C$875 million and C$975 million. The company based its guidance on Alberta power prices of between C$50/MWh and C$60/MWh and no changes to Alberta's emissions-pricing regime. The guidance reflects the expiry of a power purchase contract in Ontario among other factors.

A recently awarded contract for the output of the 207-MW Windrise wind plant in southern Alberta will add C$30 million to C$40 million annually to EBITDA when the facility goes online in the second quarter of 2021. The project, which will cost approximately C$275 million, is underpinned by a 20-year pact with Alberta's grid operator.