The Sri Lankan Government is to bear the heavy cost of around Rs.168 million due to the shutdown of the 300-megawatt Chinese-built Norochcholai Coal Power plant for the fourth time owing to mechanical failure, Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) officials said.
The plant should be kept closed for at least 18 days for the cooling of excessively heated parts of the generator before commencement of repairs, they said, adding that the plant closed this week.
The CEB Technical Engineers Union has blamed the China Machinery and Engineering Corporation (CMEC) who built the plant for its frequent breakdowns owing to negligence or sabotage by the Chinese operator (CMEC) in charge of maintenance.
The cooling system uses sea water. Engineers said they are cautious about linking power from this plant to the national grid for fears that the grid itself could break down.
Power and Energy Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka told the Sunday Times that a mechanical fault of lube oil pump motor has caused the operational failure of the coal power plant.
This was identified during preliminary investigations, he said. He revealed that the three parties - CEB, CMEC and Boyero Power Co have been entrusted with maintenance of this complex power plant. Minister Ranawaka pointed out that the cause of the plant's breakdown may be due to three factors - mechanical defect, malfunction of a certain part of the generator or sabotage. These aspects are now being probed by a special team of experts, he said. He said that the CEB has to incur a massive loss due to the shutdown of the plant and the actual cost is yet to be estimated.
The plant was built by CMEC and the first phase has been completed by adding 300 MW power to the national grid.
CMEC has been given the contract to construct the second phase of the coal power project to increase the plant's capacity up to 900 MW, at a total cost of US $1.3 billion funded by China's Exim Bank, Minister Ranawake revealed.
But CEB trade unions alleged that according to international pricing, the cost for the power plant should be in the region of US$900 million and they questioned as to who had taken the balance US$ 400 million from the Chinese deal. CEB Technical Engineers Union accused the Chinese company for creating technical problems with the aim of continuing the massive contract of maintaining and administering the power plant. But Minister Ranawake denied this allegation saying that it was baseless.
A power and energy expert who wished to be anonymous told the Business Times the power station has been non-operation from its commissioning not due to technical issues but because its system doesn't suit Sri Lanka. He added that its technology too is outdated.
A proper insulation and heat sinking system to cool down the continuous heat build-up at the plant should be installed to prevent the burning down of components which will result in short circuit in the power plant, he said.
Earlier the Norochcholai coal power plant had been shut down for 55 days since it was commissioned in March 2011. One of the main reasons for the non-functioning of the plant is due to the system failure experienced when the plant connects to the national grid.