A new cogeneration project that’s expected to increase electric power and steam heat at a Los Angeles-area refinery was approved this week by the California Energy Commission. Also approved were license extensions for various peaker plants that popped up during the energy crisis of 2001. An 85 MW expansion of the Watson Cogeneration project was approved on a 3-0 vote during the commission’s April 11 business meeting. “The governor’s been a strong proponent of cogeneration, and so certainly we’re gratified to see additional cogeneration megawatts coming online,” said commission chair Bob Weisenmiller. The project, according to commission hearing officer Raoul Renaud, would increase the capacity of the existing 385 MW Watson project by 85 MW with the addition of a combustion turbine generator. The project site consists of 2.5 acres within the boundary of the existing cogeneration facility, located in the Los Angeles County city of Carson. The 21.7-acre facility supplies steam to the adjacent BP Carson Refinery. The commission licensed the facility in 1986 and it’s been operating since 1988, Renaud said. The Watson Cogeneration Co. is a joint partnership between subsidiaries of BP America and Edison Mission Energy. Construction is expected to take 26 months, according to Renaud. Also during this week’s business meeting, the commission approved operating extensions for eight emergency peaker plants that had been granted 10-year licenses in 2001, after then-California Gov. Gray Davis declared a statewide energy crisis. The facilities, which each came online during second half of 2001, received expedited processing and California Environmental Quality Act exemptions due to the January 2001 state of emergency declaration caused by electricity supply constraints. “There are no known violations and staff has no outstanding concerns with the eight peaker projects,” compliance project manager Craig Hoffman said. The facilities are all gas-fired simple-cycle plants. Three are located in San Diego County. They include the 90 MW Larkspur Energy Facility, the 49 MW CalPeak Enterprise #7, and the CalPeak Border plant. Two--the Alliance Century and Alliance Drews plants, both of which are 40 MW--are located within San Bernardino County. There’s also one plant each in Riverside, Monterey and Santa Clara counties: the 135 MW Indigo Energy facility, the 50 MW Calpine King City plant, and the 135 MW Calpine Gilroy peaker, respectively. Under the commission’s action this week, the plants’ license extensions are open-ended. “They probably have a life expectancy of another 20 to 25 years,” Hoffman said.