MRO Magazine

Faulty alarm system thought to trigger power blackout that closed Ontario’s industries

Toronto, ON -- Industry in Ontario has been asked by the provincial government to cut back power usage to half in t...


August 17, 2003
By MRO Magazine

Toronto, ON — Industry in Ontario has been asked by the provincial government to cut back power usage to half in the aftermath of last Thursday’s power outage throughout the northeast U.S. and the province. The request to curtail production applies to manufacturers, oil refineries, auto makers and steel producers, among others.

On an average day, Ontarians use about 23,000 megawatts of power. Consumption was at 24,200 when the power went out last week.

A broken alarm system that failed signal problems with three transmission lines in northern Ohio is thought to be the trigger of the power blackout.

Teams of engineers and computer specialists now must search through millions of datum in an effort to reconstruct the problems that led to the blackout. Over 10,000 pages of data, including automatically generated logs on power flows over transmission lines, need to be examined.


The blackout paralyzed many industries, espeically automotive production. More than 50 assembly and other plants operated by General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group were affected by the cascading blackout. The Honda Motor Co. plant in Alliston, Ont., also was idle Friday.

GM, the world’s largest automaker, said 17 of its plants were closed, affecting 44,000 workers. Only skilled trades and maintenance personnel were reporting to work Friday.

Ford said 23 of its 44 plants in North America were shut down. Fourteen of DaimlerChrysler’s 31 North American plants also were closed.

The pulp and paper industry also was affected. Domtar Inc. of Montreal was working to get three of its mills back up this weekend after the power outage halted operations. The company’s pulp mill in Espanola, Ont., and its paper mills in Cornwall, Ont., and Port Huron, Mich., were affected by the blackout.

Suncor’s petrochemical refinery in Sarnia, Ont., was closed, as were Petro-Canada’s plants in Mississauga, Ont., and Oakville, Ont.