Gas supply, technical glitches delay Tripura power project

Agartala, Nov 21 (IANS) Failure on the part of authorities concerned to ensure adequate and regular supply of gas as well as technical glitches have led to an inordinate delay in the commissioning of the state-run NEEPCO’s second biggest thermal power project in northeast India and resulted in huge losses to it.

While a senior official of the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) blamed the government-owned ONGC’s failure to ensure adequate supply of gas for the delay that was causing NEEPCO a loss of Rs.6 crore per month, an official of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation said technical problems and interruptions on the part of NEEPCO were to blame for the situation.

NEEPCO – a mini-ratna company under the union power ministry – had begun to commission the Rs.950 crore (nearly $150 million) power plant in western Tripura’s Monarchak, 70 km south of Tripura capital Agartala, more than 13 years ago.

The project’s foundation stone was laid in March 2002 by Suresh Prabhu, the then power minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.

The environment-friendly project was originally slated to be commissioned in 2005. Now, plans are afoot to commission it in 2017.

“Conceived in 2000 with an initial installed capacity of 500 MW, the power plant’s capacity was reduced to 280 MW in 2003-04 after ONGC reduced its gas allocation by half,” NEEPCO General Manager (Electrical) Samar Ranjan Biswas told IANS.

“The ONGC further slashed the gas allocation in 2008, forcing NEEPCO to further scale down the plant’s installed capacity to 101 MW. Now, the ONGC says it will begin supplying gas on a regular basis from March next year. Earlier, on countless occasions, the ONGC failed to keep its promises,” said Biswas, who heads the project.

“The commissioning has now been rescheduled to March 2017, provided the ONGC begins supplying gas,” the NEEPCO official added.

Biswas said the ONGC began supplying gas to the NEEPCO power plant in February on an experimental basis but subsequently stopped supply.

On the other hand, ONGC Executive Director and Tripura asset manager S.C. Soni said the corporation was ready to provide 0.4 million standard cubic metre per day (MSCMPD) gas to NEEPCO “but they must assure us the gas supply would be taken uninterruptedly”. Otherwise, Soni pointed out, there would be a technical glitch in the supply and the ONGC would suffer losses.

“NEEPCO wanted 0.5 MSCMPD gas but are able to receive only 0.2 to 0.3 MSCMPD due to technical problems; there are frequent interruptions also, leading to losses to the ONGC. We will be ready to supply 0.5 MSCMPD gas by the middle of 2016,” Soni told IANS over phone.

The ONGC official said, “We have asked NEEPCO to tell us about their exact gas requirement. We understand their constraints. But all these problems must be resolved across the table and not talking to the media. ONGC’s top officials are sincerely trying to resolve the issue.”

Tripura Power Minister Manik Dey, who visited the NEEPCO plant recently, expressed deep anguish over the delay in kick-starting the project.

“The long-awaited project, if commissioned in scheduled time, would resolve the power crisis in the northeast region and can even supply electricity to other parts of the country,” he said.

Designed by US-based General Electric Company, the plant’s turbines have been supplied by Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited. The plant would generate 62 MW electricity through gas turbine and 39 MW through steam turbine.

Credited with installation of several power projects in the northeastern states, NEEPCO – owned by the government of India and having its headquarters in Meghalaya capital Shillong – also plans to generate at least 1,500 MW power from solar and wind energy in the next five years.

Meanwhile, the ONGC has set up a 726-MW power project in Tripura’s Palatana, 60 km from here, to meet the electricity crisis of the northeastern states.

The Indian government has announced the supply of 100 MW power to Bangladesh. Work is going on to set up transmission lines to link the Tripura power grid to the Comilla power grid in eastern Bangladesh.

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