(AP) — Construction has come to a halt at Portland General Electric's Carty Generating Station near Boardman, Oregon as the project contractor teeters on the brink of bankruptcy. Workers were turned away Monday at the Carty site next to the Boardman Coal Plant on Tower Road, leaving the 440-megwatt natural gas-fired power plant in a temporary state of limbo.
PGE hired Abeinsa to build the facility in 2013. Abeinsa, based in suburban St. Louis, is an affiliate of Abengoa, a Spanish multinational corporation with investments in solar energy, biofuels, power plants and infrastructure.
Abengoa entered into early insolvency proceedings in November. The company now has up to four months to work out a deal with creditors, or risk becoming Spain's largest bankruptcy on record. Abengoa employs around 20,000 people worldwide. Approximately 500 of those workers on the Carty station are left wondering if and when they'll be back on the job. Steve Corson, spokesman for PGE, said they are in constant communication with Abeinsa to resolve the situation.
"We are certainly still committed to the Carty project and will be working to get people back on the job site as soon as possible," Corson said. A representative for Abeinsa could not be reached Monday for comment.
The Carty Generating Station was identified in PGE's 2009 long-range energy plan to meet growing customer demand. PGE serves roughly 840,000 customers in the Portland metro area south to Salem. Carty is supposed to come online by mid-2016. Corson said that schedule hasn't changed yet, but reiterated the situation with Abeinsa is fluid.
Construction is already far along at Carty, and major components of the plant have already been built, including the combined-cycle gas and steam generation turbines. Corson said PGE does have the capacity to assume control of the remaining work should it be necessary. "We've been monitoring the situation very closely, given the circumstances," Corson said.
PGE selected Abeinsa as the general contractor for Carty after a vigorous bidding process in 2013. At the time, Corson said there was no inkling the company's finances were in trouble. "Abengoa is one of the largest energy firms in the world," he said. "They were deemed to be able to deliver, in terms of their contract."
Corson said there are safeguards built into the contract, including a performance bond which acts as a kind of insurance policy for the project. The plant could cost up to $514 million when all is said and done. Corson said he is not sure when workers will be allowed back on site, but reiterated PGE's commitment to the project.
"We don't want people to be left in a state of uncertainty for any longer than they need to be," he said.