1 May 2013

Nigeria: Save This Power Project From Collapse


Hopes that there may be bright light at the end of a long tortuous dark tunnel in the Northern parts of the country are fading, because the region's biggest power plant will not come on stream as scheduled by 2014.

Reports suggest that the project, to which huge financial and other resources have been committed, has suffered a major setback caused apparently by shoddy planning.

According to these reports, the transportation of the seven remaining turbines from Onne Port in Rivers State to Kaduna, the home of the project, has been put off due to this.

The Kaduna project was envisaged to be a 215megawatt generating capacity, capable of feeding industries in wide swaths of the rejoin, thus freeing existing capacity for wider domestic coverage.

Contract for the project was awarded in November 2009 to General Electric and Rockson Engineering, with a December 2013 completion deadline. But just when the contractors thought they had overcome a two-year difficulty in transporting the turbines with two special trucks imported for the purposes, new hurdles have arisen. The government had to repair, in some cases upgrade, sections of the road and reinforce the bridges on the route from Onne to Kaduna in order to withstand the weight of the consignment. After the trucks made their first trip to Kaduna last March to deliver a part of the consignment, they broke down. The repairs and upgrading may not have been sufficient. The unusually heavy equipment took a heavy toll on the 950-kilometre stretch of road. Some sections of the road crumbled under the sheer weight of the equipment; because of that, road engineers have determined that the trucks and the heavy-duty equipment they carry may not be able to run on it smoothly again.

Obviously there is a problem. The remaining seven sets of the turbines are now trapped at the Onne Port and the contracting firms have insisted that there would be need to once again repair the road and reinforce the bridges with stronger and more durable materials before the remaining turbines can safely be transported to Kaduna.

The Kaduna plant is part of the government's Independent Power Project initiative conceived as part of efforts to revive industries that folded up as a result of unstable power supply from the national grid. Its scope included manufacture and supply of eight General Electric Frame 5 Dual Fuel Gas Turbines from Italy and shipment to Nigeria, as well as the design, engineering, procurement of the balance of the plant, installation, construction, testing and coming on stream of the entire project.

When the contract was awarded in 2009, the planners appeared not to have taken the peculiar topography of the region and the nature of Nigerian roads into consideration.

It is as if the shipment of the turbines was planned without any thought to how they would be transported from Onne Port to Kaduna. This yawning gap in the feasibility aspect of the project was only discovered when the equipment arrived at the port in Onne, more than two years ago.

This is no time to wring hands or play the blame game.

The situation does not appear to be a technically-challenging one as the project's handlers are making it out to be.

The contracting firms involved are internationally renowned multinationals, so it would not be asking for too much if the government should request that the heavy machineries be dismantled into easily transportable bits and taken to the site in Kaduna for reassembly. If that procedure would mean additional cost, it would be a much better and cost-effective course of action to take than the long term option of reinforcing the roads and rebuilding bridges.

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