– damaged co-gen plant requires US$17M fix
A recent visit to the Skeldon Estate with officials from the Skeldon Energy Inc (SEI), Minister
within the Ministry of Finance Jaipaul Sharma, and Guysuco officials, unearthed major safety and design issues with the estate’s Co-Generation plant. Rehabilitating the plant will cost US$17 Million in repairs.
Chairman of the SEI Board of Directors Lloyd Ross explained, “Repairs in the sense that it is remedial just to allow us to get to a level of safety that is acceptable for the operation of this plant, which did not exist prior to now.”
During the press briefing at the estate after an indepth tour and inspection of the facility, Ross revealed that there were multiple design deficiencies. “There was an issue with improper maintenance and an issue of training and operational oversight.”
According to Ross, due to the malfunctioning boilers the plant has been shut down and out of order for the past six months. He said that because of the design of the structure it is proving to be unsuitable for the country’s conditions.
The boilers, he stated, are clogging excessively with the ash from the burning of the bagasse causing sections of the plant to erode.
He added that the remedial and maintenance programme currently being carried out is expected to cost some US$2.5 million.
Ross stated that they are moving to have the two defective boilers replaced with one. There will be other repairs. “The US$17 million is not only to do with the replacement boiler. It is also to do with the major repairs of the turbines, as well as adding a new 69 KV transformer.”
The total works are expected to be completed by August of this year and will facilitate a second crop to take shape by September.
“The plant has not realized its full potential, simply because it has been inefficient in the use of the bagasse produced. It was only operating at a deficiency level”, he stated.
Minister within the Ministry of Finance Jaipaul Sharma, has since issued a call to have a thorough investigation into the co-generation plant. Sharma, who has direct responsibility for SEI, disclosed that the project was never officially certified. There was no document to state operations commenced and when.
He said that one of the major factors that would have contributed to the boiler damage leads to the overhead shed protecting the boiler from extreme weather patterns. He stated that the shed was built in such a way that it only covers one boiler leaving one exposed.
“The boilers were designed to use bagasse, but they used a large amount of heavy fuel oil (HFO); this contributed to the deterioration”.
Sharma disclosed that it was upon a visit to the facility previously that he learnt the HFO was being used to start the boilers but later learnt that the HFO was used in place of bagasse on many occasions. “The oil accelerated the deterioration of the internal core of the boiler.”
While on the tour Sharma noticed a tubing of a boiler that was 1.5 mm thick but it actuality should have been 4 mm in size, this he stressed could have resulted in an explosion.
The Skeldon Co-generation Plant which has been down for the past six months has been unable to generate electricity using the 30 mw bagasse fuelled generators. The plant consists of 2×15 megawatts steam generation plant and a 10 megawatts HFO generating plant.
In 2014, the then Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy was quoted as saying”…The co-gen plant in Skeldon exported 5,644 MWH energy to the GPL national grid in March. Of this amount, 1,410 MWH or 25% was from the bagasse-based turbine generators, the rest, 4,233 MWH was from the diesel-based generators.”
A team of South African Engineers is currently working to fix the boilers.
When questioned where financing is expected to surface from it was revealed that SEI will be looking at other means beside the government to access financial support. These include options of obtaining the money through commercial loans, third party equity investor and divestment among other options.
Auditors who visited the site described in detail in an audit report the extreme damage and deterioration of the plant. It has been viewed as a “ticking time bomb”.
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