Nov 13, 2016 News
By Kiana Wilburg
Their conclusion is based on a damning audit conducted on the factory and its operating plants by an international firm. The report on the findings shows how the factory is deteriorating in various areas.
The report also provides numerous telling images of the bagasse fired power plant within the factory. This was a main area of concern and focus for the international firm that conducted the technical assessment of the factory.
The auditors found that the entire insulation was missing for the plant’s diffuser thus resulting in major heat losses. The auditors were also left with no choice but to flag the plant’s boiler fuel feeders noting that they posed serious safety issues.
The auditors said, “Frequency converters for bagasse feeder motors were missing and not working due to lack of spares. Further, the conveyer feeder junction box and connection boxes were in a bad condition.”
Discovered as well, was the fact that exhaust gas leakages in the boilers occurred due to wrong furnace pressure. Broiler platforms were also deemed dangerous due to the severe extent of corrosion.
The auditors in their investigation of the $200M entity found that oil burners for the boilers were demolished and considered it to be a fire hazard. The auditors are of the firm view that the dreadful condition of the insulators for the boilers was also a health risk for employees there. During their audit, it was found that furnace wall tubes needed replacement and superheat tubes were damaged.
The auditors were also alarmed by the fact that the mere lack of spare parts prevented crucial repairs of certain aspects of the factory.
The auditors stressed that the plant is in a very poor and dangerous condition for the operating personnel. They have since informed GuySuCo officials that major equipment damage and accidents can occur at any time, which will result in a severe production loss for the sugar factory and electricity distribution.
The auditors said, “Due to the bad condition of the process and auxiliary equipment, it is not feasible to continue repairing most parts of the plant. Furthermore, the plant operating personnel’s current competence is not adequate to operate and maintain the power plant in a safe and reliable state.”
They added, “There is even no concept for maintenance planning or spare part management. In this regard, there is a general lack of spares and tools at site concerning all areas e.g. mechanical spares, electrical spares, normal hand tools, measuring equipment, safety equipment, etc.”
Among its litany of troubling findings at the factory, the auditors said that there is no conservation concept in order to maintain the equipment such as steam turbines during shutdown periods.
The infrastructural problems plaguing the US$200M Skeldon Sugar Factory have left some viewing it as a ticking time bomb that will detonate soon; unless tough but necessary decisions are taken.
Sharing this opinion recently was Chairman of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), Dr. Clive Thomas.
He said, “Skeldon needs to be divested. We thought it would have been saved or salvaged by a mechanization project and that was not helpful. Then to get the costs down to competitive levels, moves were made to involve private cane farmers in supplying cane to Skeldon.
“That, too, did not work. The reality before us is that the factory has lots of faults; it is badly designed and poorly constructed.”
The economist added, “The factory is deteriorating. New steel is needed; some of the furnaces don’t work, some of the boilers don’t work… The factory is just not properly built. The cost for the repairs needed is about US$60M ($12B). It is that big of a disaster.”
Just recently the sugar sector received $2B in assistance from the national purse. This $2B financial support is to help meet routine expenditure and is in relation to the second crop for the sector. The cost to repair Skeldon alone would be six times that bailout.
The amount needed to fix the problems facing Skeldon is also more than the $11B ploughed into the sugar industry for the entire year.
“The auditors have said that that serious action has to be taken where Skeldon is concerned. The team, too, suggested that it has to be divested if not, the whole thing will eventually collapse on our hands and we won’t be able to produce any sugar. We have to make a decision. We either divest or watch it collapse.
“The PPP just wrecked the sector from top to bottom and we are trying to salvage what we can,” expressed the economist.
He continued, “We are trying to find a way out but that is like trying to find a way out of a minefield. That is what the PPP left us with. Everything is in a nerve-wracking state. The sugar industry is a minefield and a crumbling edifice.
“But it must be made known that we don’t want to put people on the breadline. The Skeldon factory alone employs 1,789 workers. Hence we are working on finding the best possible solution to turning the factory and the sector around.”
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