18 September, 2020

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Norochcholi Is A Lemon: Junk It! Sell It For Scrap!

By Kumar David

Prof Kumar David

Prof Kumar David

This is my third piece on Norochcholi in the last two years; previously, soft and mild mannered gentleman that I am, I expressed myself in polite terms . . . hmm, well! But its just too much now; junk the wretched thing, sell it for scrap, collect insurance, get the Chinese Government to write off the loan; in the long run this will be cheaper and less annoying than pottering around with this Lemon in the hope that it may come right one day. Lemon is an Americanism for a dud, usually a car, which from the time you take home fresh from the dealer is trouble, a flop, chronic. You are stuck with it and the dealer won’t take it back. The equivalent Australian expression is ‘up the gum tree’. Norochcholi Unit-1 has failed about 30 times since it was commissioned; these are no teething troubles, the failures are endemic and betoken defective manufacturing, poor quality materials and probably dumping on one sucker garbage that could not be passed off on some other sucker.

Mind you I am not saying that Chinese electrical plant is generically lousy; not at all. Thousands of MWs are commissioned in China each year and the stuff works fine. The point in this case is that if the customer is a sucker, or if someone on the buyer’s side was on the take, or if competent technical people were excluded from the specification drafting, negotiation and inspection process, well expect to be taken for a ride. I have no inside knowledge of which of these happened, or if it was some other reason, but it’s time to call a spade a spade; or if you don’t mind, let’s call it a bloody shovel.

What is the failure costing?

Let me put things in perspective. All numbers are rounded for ease of memory, but rest assured nothing is so out of shape as to lead you astray. For the same reason the preposition ‘about’ and adverb ‘approximately’ are discarded in this piece. CEB electricity generation in 2013 was 12 terra-watt-hours (TWh), maybe 6% more this year  – I will tell you what a TWh is in a moment – and if Norochcholi Unit-1 (300 MW) was behaving as it should it would be churning out 2.1 TWh per annum or 17% of the needed output. And if it worked well, that is maintained a satisfactory heat-rate in the jargon, the production cost would be Rs 10 per unit. The hydro-complexes generate 3.6 TWh in an average rainfall year, practically gratis. Therefore another 6.3 TWh per annum (53%) is targeted for oil-fired power plant at an average cost of Rs 25 to 35 per unit. The great hope was that when the 600 MW Norochcholi Stage-2 is added, another say 4.2 TWh per annum of cheap (Rs 10) coal power would become available, displacing an equal amount of expensive (Rs 25 to 35) oil-fired power. These price estimates of course fluctuate with world coal and oil prices.

A TWh is one billion units. A unit, more properly known as a kilo-watt-hour, is the measure we colloquially use in everyday conversations about electricity bills. If you are consuming 200 units a month and your bill is Rs 4000, you are paying Rs 20 per unit, averaged over various tariff slabs. One reason price is on the high side is because free hydro, and hoped for cheap coal power, have to be supplemented by the said 53% of more expensive oil-fired power. There is a small addition for transmission, distribution, management services and capital stock repayment/depreciation also to bear in mind.

Now if the output of this Lemon falls short by say 1.05 TWh per year (50% shortfall), you can think of it like this. For every unit of Norochcholi Unit-1 electricity that is not received by the system at Rs 10, oil generated electricity at Rs 25 to Rs 35 (say 30) has to be substituted. Then the increase in annual CEB generation cost is, 1.05 x one billion units x Rs (30-10); that is Rs 21 billion per annum. If, heaven forbid, the two Norochcholi Stage-2 units also turn out to be Lemons on a similar scale (worst case scenario), then we will be foist with a total cost overrun of Rs 63 billion every year. This, if it comes to pass, would be frightening as it is not much less than the government’s budgeted expenditure in 2011 on education (Rs 99 billion) or health (Rs 75 billion)! Mind you we are not talking of the cost of producing the country’s electricity, but only of the cost overrun in a worst case failure scenario. To put it the other way, if Norochcholi, all stages, could produce 6.3 TWh of Rs 10 per kWh electricity, instead of half of this having to come from say Rs 30 per kWh oil-fired plant, the public will pay Rs 63 billion per year less for electricity needs. All along I use rounded numbers to get across the main thrust of my message.

In fairness I must add that it is possible standards have been tightened and the manufacturer put on his toes; in this case the two 300 MW units in Stage-2 may perform better. My worst case scenario veers towards pessimism and is included as a not incredible conjecture.

Frankly, the real problem is Unit-1; I think there is too much wrong to put right. Problems will recur interminably; once a Lemon always a Lemon. I am sad about this because I have long advocated including some coal-fired power in the CEB system mix. Poor reliability is neither endemic nor common with coal; thousands of these plants run with excellent reliability all over the world including China. In fact China adds a large coal plant every fortnight. Either this supplier suckered the CEB and the Power Ministry, or some graft recipient in a high place suckered us all.

Demand for a public inquiry

These barebones are factually right but like a witch’s petticoat conceal an assemblage of deeper sins. Unit-1 is perpetually shut down, or de-rated for extended periods, so it is time to face reality; it is a white elephant, it is a bright yellow Lemon and may have to be de-rated in perpetuity, or its reliability index written down, or be decommissioned before its planned obsolescence, or all three. If it is de-rated, the construction of other plant has to be brought forward to take up the shortfall and the much vaunted expectation of cheap coal power evaporates. President Rajapakse is foist with his own petard and his promise of soon to come cheap power goes up in smoke.

Another concern is that Unit-1’s fuel efficiency, its long-term heat-rate (that is to say, is it using too much fuel for a given power output) is yet a big unknown. If the last several months the quantum of reserve and emergency power to be held in readiness to compensate for it’s low operational reliability also increased. All this costs money and Lanka’s first encounter with coal is going to be more expensive, not cheaper electricity; a counter-intuitive experience.

We are told secrecy was necessary in project award and terms of financing because it was part gift; this reasoning is absurd. This is a public venture and no concealment is acceptable; secrecy breeds graft, and breeds suspicion of graft. Furthermore, power cuts lead to huge knock-on losses to the economy and public angst. The knock-on effect of sustained power cuts on manufacturing could be severe.

The repeated and chronic failure of Unit-1 will have another repercussion beyond what meets the eye; Lanka’s long-term generation expansion programme may suffer a shock for reasons that are not obvious to laymen. Electricity sector expansion has to be planned 10 to 20 years ahead and is interleaved with plant currently in-house. If plant expected to produce 40 to 50% of current needs is a sour citrus, then the CEB had better rethink its future 10-20 year growth strategy.

I ask readers to join me in demanding a public inquiry; not a presidential commission since they are discredited and the president or his siblings may have been involved in negotiating the financing package and contract terms. The way to deal with a cock-up on this scale is a parliamentary inquiry which includes a robust component from the opposition and an overseas input. Parliamentarians are not technical experts but this can be remedied by using expert consultants to assist. Given the nadir to which local commissions of inquiry, especially presidential commissions have sunk, it is vital, if credibility is to be upheld, that it includes a foreign component that cannot be influenced by local actors.

*The author has 40 years experience in academia in power systems and was professor of electrical engineering in Hong Kong. Prior to retirement he was a Fellow of the IEEE and IEE. In the 1970s he was a Director of the CEB

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Latest comments

  • 3
    7

    David

    Are you an engineer or clown ? not a word of technical analysis about the cause of breakdowns not a mention that the CEB engineers are for the first time maintaining a coal fired plant . You are a shame to the Engineers produced from pera .

    • 5
      0

      Mmm…so the writer was a Director of the CEB and you were a…..Director of a Knocking Shop?

      • 0
        4

        thats you idiot .

        • 0
          0

          The reason for buying it is fat commission: the Chinese company was willing to give it, and the Chinese were willing to give loan towards it. So the deal was done, no matter what the quality of the plant, construction, know how transfer, etc. The big boys’ bank balance swelled.

          Why should we waste time arguing about it? The elected leaders not capable of doing anything better: Keep electing them!

          • 0
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            Indeed there needs to be a public inquiry into all those who commissioned and got kickbacks for this useless and expensive project.

            There also needs to be a public inquiry into the other Hambantota white elephants and their cost to the tax payer – the Jarapassa Mutts airport at Mattala which is a financial and ENVIRNOMENTAL DISASTER and the Hambantota port another expensive white elephant.

            Enjoy the China Dependence day of Sri Lanka – Feb 4th!

      • 1
        2

        The article does not mention the root cause/s of the problem, it only states the problem, namely that the plant does not function as a power plant should. We already know this, what we readers want to know is why? What are the specific technical reasons? How much of the problem is incompetency of the professionals involved in running the plant?

        • 1
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          The power plant had numerous mechanical problems such as bearing problems, oil leaks in pump seals, leaky steam valves etc. However all these problems can be overcome with good maintenance. However there may a major problem in the cooling water system design. Norochcholi power plant uses sea water for cooling water in the steam condenser. The boiler feed water is a specially treated water with almost zero hardness and very low dissolved minerals. The water deaerated to reduce the dissolved oxygen level in the water. In other words extreme care is taken to prepare boiler feed water. After steam leaves the turbine it enters a steam condenser. Cooling water condenses the steam so that it can be reused to make steam in the boiler. When the steam comes in contact with the tubes carrying cold water it condenses to water. The temperature of the cooling water increases as it leaves the condenser. At the power plant some of tubes that carry cooling water have developed holes and are leaking sea water into condensate. This is not acceptable for proper boiler operation.

          Why did this happen? I can only speculate
          1. The sea water is more aggressive than originally expected and is corroding the tubes and making pin holes in them;
          2. The metallurgy or the wall thickness of the titanium tubes does not meet the original specifications and as a result pin holes have developed in the tubes;
          3. The ambient sea water temperature is higher than originally thought and the designer was forced to upsize the cooling water pumps. If the sea water has fine sand or grit then the abrasion could weaken the cooling water tubes. Upsizing cooling water pumps could have compounded the problem.

          What can be done now?

          Redesign the cooling water system. Patching the pin holes is not a long term solution

          You can see the picture of a condenser at this link

          http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/25/Dores-Cond-diag1.png

          • 0
            0

            Thanks for the informative post.

            I guess the best solution is to bring in Western or Japanese help to do a complete analysis of the plant and then recommend what must be done.

            With something as big and complex as a power plant, there will be a lot of equipment that works fine, seeing as how the plant does run at times.

        • 0
          0

          Palmsquirrell,

          Tighten up your squirrel nuts for they are hanging and hitting on the rocks. What fucking incompetency are you vomiting? It is all due to your bloody MARA rogue [Edited out] extracting enormous amounts of commissions from the Chinese that has caused this problem. How could the Chinese supplier earn a reasonable profit from his project when your bloody rogue MARA grafted exorbitant commissions? So he dumped a junk here and kept his margin. You stupid [Edited out] are now conducting post mortems! Bloody lunatics.

    • 4
      2

      Why don’t you comment in your own name, indicating your professional qualifications, so that others can see whether your credentials are technical or clownish? How much more technical analysis is needed before rejecting a plant that has been shut down longer than it has been operating. Since when professionals maintaining a plant for the first time become an excuse for the supplier. This is not an experiment in maintenance but a supplier’s breach of the fundamental condition of contract. And it is not funny that the GOSL has no recourse to claiming damages.

      • 0
        1

        I am commenting in my own name , I am an Engineer by training from the same place as david. I am a director of a Engineering of a multinational engineering firm in Detroit . While I have not worked in power systems I would expect more from somebody like David who could give a better analysis of why the CEB cannot maintain this plant where the real fault lies . And WHAT CAN BE DONE TO GET IT WORKING .

        If all of us Engineers threw our hands up and said we should shut down everything there will be nothing working at all .

        • 3
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          Abhaya, if you are as you claim, an engineer and director, you certainly don’t write like a professional. Calling Professor David a ‘clown’ and a ‘shame to engineers produced by pera’ is unprofessional, unethical and more. I hate to think that you are standard for engineering directors in Detroit. You sound more like a good, old-fashioned, Sri Lankan kuth’thu’karaya. God help Detroit!

          • 0
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            how can I put this to you .

            1 there is no God other than in your imagination .
            2 It is a terrible article from somebody who should know better .
            3 There is no shame or anything unethical in calling it out as I see it .

            4 I dont know who a kuthu karaya is .
            5 Detroit is doing just fine thanks to people who solve problems not ones who ask for the Big Three to be lemoned .

            6 lmao .

          • 2
            0

            They behave compliant to the Raja code of conduct. So we cant expect Abhaya or anyone of them – to behave civilized. It is not easy for them to learn it. I never thought that Amis could be that stupid to hire this kind low weigts as directors… frech grins. Yeah, God help Detroit !!!!!!

        • 2
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          Detroit? NO wonder it was called a dump of USA ! What industry are you directing there? I thought it was only known for killings and drugs with all auto companies having moved out many years ago. Are you a contributing factor for its decline?

          Kind regards,
          OTC

        • 0
          0

          Ha! Ha! Ha1 Abhaya! So you harangue you are an engineer! Where on earth? Is it in mara’s toilet?

      • 0
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        Rajan,Spring Koha,

        Please see:
        http://www.linkedin.com/pub/h-h-a-k-premawardhana/19/ab1/999

        That is this Abhaya Premawardhana

        • 0
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          Abhaya Premawardhana in your link is not the man making comments in CT. The Abhaya making angry comments in CT is a man from Angoda who for some inexplicable reason believes that he is Abhaya Premawardhana the engineer from Detroit. An educated and a sane man will not make the comments Abhaya the CT commenter makes; always angry, has a limited vocabulary of harsh words, and always irrationally sings the praise of MR.

        • 0
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          Agnos: Thank You for the link. Yes, he may have some engineering credentials but he appears to have the social skills of an yakko. I still do not think that Professor David has done anything to warrant being insulted the way he has been by this upstart.

          • 0
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            Spring Koha & Agnos

            This Abhaya Premawardhana looks like a person from Tamilnadu.

            • 0
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              Native Vedda: At times like this I can only intone that old Jewish prayer that goes like this ‘please god, look after him and keep him as far away from me as you can’. I think we in SL will be happy if he and his kind can stay in Detroit forever. One less to get rid off for you, Native Vedda!

    • 1
      0

      Wake up Abhaya go buy a glossary. You fool the term Lemon means multiple repitive failures! Does a dim with like you get the point?

      If you need a list of failures read the papers, they are much reported.

      a) Bearing failure
      b) Flash-overs
      c) Leaks in oil-seals
      d) Numerous auxilliary plant failures (About 10)
      e) Failure of 300 condenser tubes.
      f) That’s 13 of the 27 to date – Enough you dope Abhaya?

      Only an engineer not a brainless dim-wit like you will have a clue what any of these items means.

      As a technically informed layman I found the article quite informative.

      • 0
        0

        Idiot lemon law is fine when you buy a car .

        Do you think it is possible or even viable to lemon a massive power station ?

        And looking at the laundry list you provided what makes you think it is something that good old fashioned engineering and maintenance cannot fix ?

    • 0
      0

      Hooooooooo Abhaya are you also a. Part of the commission receiving thug from the Norocholi?

      • 0
        0

        yes sure , Ill send you my account number , pay pal accepted .

      • 0
        0

        Ninja,

        Did you see? The mere mention of commission energized this filthy cockroach and was ready to give his bribery account number? Snug tits with his commission rogue mara.

    • 2
      0

      Wal meeharako, Abhaya, if you have a brain the size of a needle head, in a country top to bottom is over corrupted, how can you still leave this kind of apologic comments. Either you are sick or lack the capacity to see it. It is you who are made accountable for all the problems that the country is facing today. Most of project under the guidance of Rajapakse siblings are proved to be highly corrupted- latter is a fact that the analysts can prove with figures. Not only the “Norochcholi” many other other projects are clearly connected with billions of losses.

      • 0
        1

        Sirimal

        I do accept that there is corruption , but unlike you who is a typicsl gonhrsaka we who have been trained to be engineers should do more . kumar david is a power systems engineer who is behaving like a politician . Shame on him . For you who is probably using some other persons name . I dont know what to say but eat the grass you have been eating all your life and hope the grass is greener somewhere else .

        • 1
          0

          Abhaya,

          Attention! MARA is opening up his hole and emitting muck, align your mouth with the outlet lest you may miss your meal!

      • 1
        0

        Sirimal ,

        its a sad fact of life , there are so many educated fools ,usually their convictions and subsequent reactions solely depend on their version of events ( Religion,race,chosen political party and the perks ) this Abhaya guy is one of them .

        i would summed up Norochochle disaster as this ,

        say you are desperate to buy a brand new car as your present car is not adequate enough to meet the current demand of your livelihood, you know that you can’t afford to have any break downs and delays , hence decided to go for a high interest commercial loan to purchase 2014 brand new car , you go for a car dealer to get the job done for you ,in return the car dealer promised to arrange the loan as well to deliver a brand new car to your door step ,in the mean time without the knowledge of the prospective buyer the car dealer went to a car importer and had a back hand deal to import a repainted/modified 20 year old car with a warranty ,after an extended delay , finally the owner received the promised reliable , fuel efficient brand new looking car (amidst cheering crowd) , real night mare started once he started driving the car, constant breakdowns , endless delays and countless loss of working hours caused him to check & verify the true picture of the story , then only he realized that he had been cheated big time , of course car importer promised to rectify the mechanical problems only if he is willing to put up the price tag , now the owner of the car is in a real dilemma as to keep the car or to sell it to a scrap yard.

        • 2
          0

          I have no idea about the current one of the other project, but from what I heard sofar I only know where the siblings put their fingers are higly corrupted to the levels that many of us have not noticed it sofar. And most of all, my colleagues assure that I am a mental health person would never be like Abhaya the like scum, who would repeatedly come with this kind of lowlevel arguments.

          Enough is enough, I am not going to ignore this Abhaya from today on- knowing that he is officially placed to react like this – to that degree of former leela.

          In general, the Chinese earn world wide recongition as great building constructors, road makers, engineers and several other areas including alternative medicine too. They are also the experts in maufacturing duplicate accessories to many countries incl. Europe. But their levels of performance are completetly different when it is focusing on the quality levels. Meaning the goods that are sent to developing nations are low quality ones than those sending to Europe, America and other developed countries.
          I fully agree with the prof here.. “sell it for scrap, collect insurance, get the Chinese Government to write off the loan”

          But the latter could be done, only if lanken authorities did their job properly (I very much doubt that they were capable to getting finalized them with the contract properly)

          There should have been all these on papers of the lanken autohrities getting things done by foreign contractors.

          The Chinese constructors are seen as blood suckers to some of my eureopean friends describe… anyway, they the chinese can deceive poor folks much easier than powerful ones.

          • 1
            0

            applogies.
            Enough is enough, I am going to fully IGNOR this Abhaya from today on- knowing that he is officially placed to react like this – to that degree of former leela.

            Most of thetimes, I spend on travel by the time I add my comments – so I make more typos.. sorry

        • 1
          0

          srilal,

          The junk you have written is more junkier than Norochcholai junk!

    • 2
      0

      This comment is more or less like – koheda yanne malle pol ??????. So why should we even read the comments of this self proclaimed director who is disgracing the writer for no acceptable reasons. Good professor should have proved by his records of publications- even not respecting that, Abhaya to leave this kind of embaracing remarks is no comprehensible to anyone with sanity.

    • 1
      0

      Abhaya,

      You bloody ostrich, save your hole for discharging the bloody filth that you swallow. The writer has written everything that is required. You fool, [Edited out] and ask MARA to have the technical analysis done.

  • 1
    1

    Where is the petition? Let me sign it please.

  • 1
    2

    When norochali plan this people said it’s against Christian… now they said its scrap.67years sri Lankan Christian show they cannot bring prosperity for all sri Lanka as they cannot slove LTTE problem.still they live west funds they got different ways. Let give sinhala Buddhist little more time how all sri Lankan live dignity without begging dollar or Arabic money.

  • 1
    0

    Norochcholai 1 is a giant cockup by our Konde Bandapu Chinu. Lets hope that 2 is also not cocked up in similiar style. Our professionals have awarded doctorates to the VVIP’s so that they can take all the key decisions? They have absolutuely brilliant CV’s including law, engineering, achitecture, finance, defence, terrorism, urban development, politricks, computer jilmart, boru statistics etc. Unfortunately you cant manipulate machines, they simply break down.

  • 1
    0

    This is the only project MR did that would be usefull to the economy.
    Yet it was a total disaster.

    Some comments here ask what is the root cause problem.

    The root cause of the problem is the awarding this billion $ project to a vendor who don’t have proper experience, track record of delivering such a mega project. The technical evaluation, and awarding of the project is solely done by the royal family to vendor who gave the most kick back commission to the family.

    That was the criteria for the evaluation to award this project. The roayal may got few hundred million $ commissions while country got a crap power plant.

  • 0
    0

    When Noracholai Power Plant is in this plight they want to have another one in Sampoor.Above all the government has by GAZETTE NOTIFICATION No:1499-25 of May 30,2007 acquired almost 10,000 acres of land there just after bombing and shelling the entire area in August 2006 and uprooting the traditional Tamil inhabitants there so that they could not come back.Now for years they are in Transit camps having lost their houses, temples, schools and vocation of paddy cultivation and fishing.None seem to bother about their plight and the Fundamental Rights Applications filed by them are pending in the Supreme Court like the Partition cases in District Courts, for ages.

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