Business News of 2014-09-03

T3 thermal plant conundrum

The Takoradi 3 (T3) thermal plant, with an installed capacity of some 132 megawatts, has come under intense scrutiny over the past few months from energy analysts.

While some have attributed the challenges bedevilling the installation to the type of machines, others have blamed the gods of the area for the inconsistency in power generated by the 132MW installation.

A source close to the issue told the B&FT: “The problem is that at the time of handing over the project, the machine had not been operated on crude before -- but the manufacturers insisted that it could run on crude oil”.

The source said: “The VRA operated it on crude oil because the OEM had assured VRA that it could be operated on crude oil. But upon running it on crude oil, the VRA found these problems.”

The VRA is currently running two units of the installation on gas, and according to its engineers it has 98 percent availability. “What this means is that the problem is not with the machine but the kind of fuel that was prescribed by the equipment manufacturers.”

The Takoradi T3 power plant is a combined-cycle power plant at the Volta River Authority (VRA) power station at Aboadze, near Takoradi.

It was meant to expand the Takoradi Thermal Power Station capacity by 132MW. It has four 25MW units that are fuelled by gas or LCO (diesel) and an additional 32MW generated from steam.

The Government of Ghana (GoG) through the Ministry of Energy in around 2008 signed a deal with the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) for purchase and installation of the 132MW plant.

Government of Ghana (GoG) officially took over the US$256million thermal plant in April 2013, following completion of the project and subsequent ‘successful’ performance tests conducted by the CCC. The installation was then handed over to the Volta River Authority to operate.

After operating the plants on crude oil for a period, they began experiencing some challenges. First, there was overheating in Turbine Four of the installation. The overheating, which led to an explosion, necessitated a precautionary shutdown of the four-turbine plant inaugurated just two months earlier.

This prompted a full-blown inquiry into the challenge to determine if it was a defect with the equipment or operational challenges, and who should bear the liability.

The major sticking point in the investigation has been the type of fuel used to power the plants. While the OEM -- the original equipment manufacturer -- insists the plants can be operated successfully on crude oil and gas successfully, the VRA disagrees.

Though the committee of experts has submitted its report to the Ministry of Energy, concrete measures are yet to be taken by the Ministry.

For one, the OEM has not accepted liability for the challenges and is still holding its ground, while the VRA insists it’s not an operational problem but the type of fuel used to run the plant. Discussions are still on-going.

Contrary to reports that the machines have been flown out of the country to Ukraine for repairs, the VRA says the two other faulty turbines are here and it is planning to bring them on-stream.

“The machines are here. They’ve not been flown out. What we intend doing is to remove the nucleus of the two other units, and import the parts to replace them for power generation.”

Source: B&FT
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