While on one hand the government seems busy in devising different proposals and inking agreements with international firms to solve the energy crisis, on the other hand it fails to recognise that mismanagement has greatly hampered the capability of some existing power plants.
An example of the latter is the Guddu Thermal Power plant, one of the largest public sector power plants located in Sindh. Its current condition can be described as pathetic. More than seven power units of the plant are lying unutilised, which has decreased the original power generation capacity from 1,650MW to about 350 to 550MW. The management has been forced to shut down units because of frequent minor blasts inside plants and fire accidents. Sources have said the blasts are due to the management’s negligence and junior officers’ incompetency, factors that have contributed to a lack of control over the situation.
Reports show that unit No. 4, which with the capacity to generate 230MW, caught fire in May of this year. Then in June a blast occurred in unit No. 2, forcing it to be shut down. For the last couple of months units 6, 11, 12, and 13 have been lying idle. “Unit 7 needs a gear to run and there is a fan required for another unit which can generate 100MW. If all requirements are met and the power plant starts running smoothly, we can add a further 1,000MW to the national grid,” said a senior engineer working at the plant.
The problems persist even though the power plant is being supplied with 260 million cubic feet of gas, “Hardly 140 mmcfd is being consumed by the power plant,” officials said.
Following the twin blasts in unit No. 4 and unit No. 2, resident engineers were initially held responsible, but there was no inquiry. Instead the resident engineers were given another assignment. Junior engineers took over, amidst allegations that the whole case was politically motivated.
Some officials blame Aslam Shaikh, CEO of Guddu power plant, who apparently has given up interest in his job as the date of his retirement approaches. Officials close to the CEO quoted him as saying: “I am tired of writing to higher authorities. Only four to five months are left in my retirement. Now, I do not want to indulge in these kind of matters.”
Shaikh, however, has a very different story, and holds his predecessors responsible. “Actually, the lack of overhauling and maintenance is the real problem. Every other day we witness one or two problems. These units are around 38 years old, but no one has properly taken care of them given financial and other constraints,” he said. According to Shaikh, he has written to higher officials to fix the problem, which should be resolved by the end of this month. “Currently we are producing 600 MW, which is likely to climb 700 MW in a few days,” he said. When asked to restore production levels to the power plant’s actual capacity of 1,650 MW, he said, “We cannot generate it because there have been audit problems in two units which are not supposed to start their functions.” He did not elaborate.
Shaikh added that a new project was being set up with the help of the United States which would generate 747MW electricity. “Seventy five per cent work has been finished and we will start one unit by February and all three to four units will be established by August 2014 and this will reduce load-shedding in the country by 20%,” he claimed.
He refuted the allegations of mismanagement and said he has issued show cause notices to negligent officers, and has started an investigation into the blast and fire which took place in different units.
Neither the managing director of Pakistan Electric Power Company, nor the Ministry of water and power federal secretary was available to comment on Guddu.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2013.
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