TransAlta, MidAmerican to seek Canada power projects

Fri Oct 26, 2012 1:43pm EDT
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By Jeffrey Jones and Bhaswati Mukhopadhyay

(Reuters) - TransAlta Corp (TA.TO: Quote) said Friday it was teaming up with Warren Buffett's power generation and pipeline company to seek opportunities for new gas-fired electricity plants to power the booming Alberta oil sands and nascent Pacific Coast LNG export industries.

TransAlta, known for Canadian and U.S. coal, gas and renewable generation businesses, said it signed a strategic partnership with MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., owned by Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N: Quote).

The pair will seek out prospects to build and operate plants to help meet an estimated C$200 billion of new investment in generation that Canada needs over the next two decades.

The tie-up will allow the Calgary-based power generator to speed up its growth ambitions, as the financial risk would be shared. It announced the partnership, MidAmerican's first foray into Canada, while reporting that third-quarter profit grew 12 percent on lower maintenance costs and strong margins in most of its operations.

One example of a plant that the companies could develop would be TransAlta's 800 megawatt Sundance 7 project in Alberta, which under current plans, would be completed by 2016 or 2017.

"This gives us the opportunity to be much more aggressive here in the short-term about projects that we think are possible, and also be much more aggressive about larger projects," TransAlta Chief Executive Dawn Farrell said.

She said the oil sands sector, where producers seek to double production to 3.1 million barrels a day by 2020, offers big generation opportunities. In addition, at least five proposed liquefied natural gas export terminals on the West Coast will also require electricity, Farrell said.

TransAlta and MidAmerican already have a long-standing relationship in the United States, where they jointly operate renewable and other generation businesses.   Continued...