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A breakdown at the Lakvijaia coal-fired power plant on the west coast of Sri Lanka has forced the country to introduce nationwide power outages on a daily basis for a total one and a half hours—one hour during the day and a half hour during the night.
Lakvijaia is Sri Lanka’s largest power plant, and the only one that uses coal as fuel.
The outages began yesterday, after a Sunday breakdown at the plant took out almost half – 48 percent – of the country’s power-generating capacity, making it unable to meet peak demand of some 2.26 GW.
The plant, in the region of Norocholai, has an installed capacity of 900 MW and was built by a Chinese contractor, China Machinery Engineering Corporation. The investment was worth US$1.4 billion. The plant was commissioned in 2011 and since then has experienced more than 20 breakdowns, four of them in 2016 alone.
Last week, the Ceylon Electricity Board reported technical problems at Lakvijaia, which led to a shutdown of all three reactors. The problem detected was a fault with a transmission line. However, the authority said that by Saturday, all reactors were back in operation, only to be shut down again a day later.
Initially, the authorities considered imposing a two-hour blackout, but thanks to rainfall, some of the energy that Sri Lanka needs on a daily basis has been met by hydropower installations.
Breakdowns are not the only problem with Lakvijaia. The company that built it, China Machinery Engineering Corporation and the Sri Lankan government were for a long time locked in a heated argument about the quality of the installation, including allegations from Sri Lankan officials that CMEC had used substandard materials and speculation that bribery was involved when the deal for the plant’s construction was negotiated.
The issue was seemingly resolved two years ago when China’s Ministry of Commerce and the Sri Lankan Ministry of Power and Energy signed two memoranda of understanding, according to which the Chinese side would provide maintenance services at the plant. Apparently, this did not prevent breakdowns.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.