The 907MW Norte III combined-cycle power plant located in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, in Northern Mexico commenced operations in June 2020. It is one of the biggest gas-fired combined-cycle facility in Mexico.

The project was initially owned and undertaken by Abengoa which started construction on the £950m ($1.2bn) facility in June 2015.

Macquarie Group, in consortium with Argentinian engineering and construction firm Techint acquired the project from Abengoa in September 2017 and announced the financial closure for the project in the same month.

Macquarie Group further sold 35.5% and 10.0% equity interests in the Norte III project to InfraRed and Invex Infraestructura, respectively, in March 2018. After this transaction, Macquarie now holds a 40.5% interest in the project while Techint holds the remaining 9%.

General Electric (GE) will be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the power plant for a period of 25 years.

The Norte III combined-cycle facility is expected to generate enough electricity to power approximately 500,000 Mexican households annually.

Norte III project background

Abengoa was awarded the contract to build and operate the Norte III combined-cycle power generation facility under a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Mexico’s state-owned Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE) in January 2015.

The project was intended to offset the power generation loss due to the decommissioning of two oil-fired units of the 316MW Samalayuca thermoelectric plant.

Abengoa started construction on the facility in June 2015 using the bridge loan borrowed from five banks under the supervision of Carl Marks Advisors (CMA).

However, Abengoa’s rising debt obligations and falling stocks led to the suspension of the construction works due to the liquidity crunch faced by the company.

CMA was asked by the bridge lenders to evaluate the project’s strategic alternatives that included either a restructuring or the potential sale of Norte III.

Norte III combined-cycle power plant make-up

Located on a 29.4ha-site south of Ciudad Juarez, approximately 30km south of the US-Mexico border, the combined-cycle power plant is equipped with four GE 7F.04 gas turbines, four GE H33 generators, four heat exchangers supplied by CMI Group, and two 175MW steam turbine and generator sets from Toshiba.

The GE 7F.04 gas turbines, fitted with dry low NOx combustion system and 3D aerodynamic hot gas path, offer 60.3% efficiency and 99.3% reliability in combined-cycle configuration.

Power transmission

The electricity generated by the Norte III power plant is evacuated into the national power system through 230kV transmission lines.

Abengoa completed the engineering, design, construction and commissioning of four 230kV lines for a total length of 21.1km, and two 230kV substations with ten high-voltage feeders, for the power evacuation from the Norte III facility in May 2019, under a £12.5m ($17.3m) contract awarded by CFE.

Project financing

The Macquarie Capital-Techint Consortium secured £555m ($716M) of new fund for the project from a group of ten different financial institutions in September 2017.

Natixis, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC), Bancomext, Crédit Agricole, GE, EDC, Norinchukin Bank, KDB, KfW, and Intesa Sanpaolo were the lead arrangers for the credit facility.

Law firm Paul Hastings acted as an advisor to the lenders of the project.

Contractors involved

Techint Engineering and Construction, a subsidiary of Technit Group, was the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contractor of the project.

General Electric (GE) was awarded a £240m ($330m) contract for the operations and maintenance of the power plant for a period of 25 years in January 2018.

Toshiba Corporation supplied two sets of steam turbines and generators (STG) for the Norte III combined-cycle power plant under a contract awarded in April 2015.

CMI Group was the supplier of heat exchangers while the main transformers were supplied by Siemens.

The heat exchangers were supplied by while Siemens supplied six main transformers for the combined-cycle facility.