The Botswana Power Corporation top brass was this week at pains trying to defend the track record of China National Electric Equipment Corporation (CNEEC), the company contracted to build Morupule B Power project.
However, the corporation promised Batswana that the project, which is facing a number of ‘challenges’ will not be substandard and assured the country it meets project management requirements.
CNEEC, the Chinese laity, was chosen out of four pre-qualified contractors for the P11 billion project, from the initial 4 comprising two from China, one Indian and another from Europe.
Not long after the prequalification, the European contractor dropped out. Then BPC was left with the Indian and two Chinese companies.
The Indian contractor dropped out of the tendering process after realising the Morupule 150 MW unit was not the standard unit as theirs which will mean putting production line which is not standard and probably an once off thing for them.
BPC Chief Executive Officer, Jacob Raleru, was at pains to defend the Chinese company following recent media reports on the strength of the project as a result of Unit 1 boiler failure.
“And we were left with two Chinese companies and then we procured this one on the basis of among other things their track record,” said Raleru. “I must admit that they have not produced thousands megawatts of power stations, but they have a track record in terms of producing power stations and they met some of the criteria that we had in terms of the tender.”
There has been doubts in the industry and media circles since CNEEC won the EPC tender for 600 MW Morupule B and the fears were renewed recently as boiler failures led to questions on the experience of the company.
It is alleged that CNEEC was pre-qualified although it had failed to secure financing to justify their financial capacity and did not have a single completed project of the size of Morupule B Power Station to justify their experience and technical capacity.
Recent media reports had suggested that a boiler at 150 MW Unit 1, which is being commissioned had melted, a claim that was dismissed by BCP.
“The one thing I can say is that if the Unit 1 boiler melted, it could not be able to produce even one mega watt,” stated Raleru.
“So, the fact that it has been producing 150 MW, it means it is somewhere and I can assure you it is there and working perfectly. Secondly in terms of explosion, if a boiler was to explode…..people in Serowe will know that something happened, let alone those in Palapye,” clarified Raleru.
“It is not possible for a boiler to explode and people not know about it.”
The corporation recently admitted that there were problems at the unit which was connected to the BPC grid on 27 February 2012 and disconnected on 2nd March 2012. It was again put on stream on 12th March 2012 followed by a reliability test.
But the corporation said in a statement that following the transmission grid outages to enable the integration of Morupule B Plant, Unit 1 was connected for the third time on the 8th May 2012 and was shutdown on the 10th May 2012.
The problems were caused by excessive high temperatures, which caused a mixture of coal, ash and limestone in some parts of the boiler to form a hard and rocky material, which rendered the boiler inoperable.
“Under the circumstances, a shutdown was inevitable. Remedial measures have been taken to avoid recurrence,” BPC said recently.
Unit 2 was connected to the BPC system on 21st May 2012. However, before reliability test was started it was shutdown on account of a leak in one of the water heating sub-systems which started on 26th May.
“It is an unfortunate situation that we are to produce power even as we continue to construct because of the power constraints in the country,” said Raleru.
However, the corporation remains bullish the contractors will deliver a world class power station and on promised time.
At the moment, the project is 96 percent complete with engineering and procurement complete construction is an aspect which is lagging behind.
“Basically what we are saying is that we are expecting the whole power station, all the four units will be commissioned and tested by the end of the year,” Raleru.
“We do not have a perfect project though it will come on as planned,” he said.
Morupule B consists of the power station; transmit on line project to Isang, and Phokojwe and water supply project.
The power project is aimed at alleviating electricity problems that has hit both domestic and commercial consumers with the economy losing millions of Pula over power outages.