As transmission facilities are not ready yet, the newly-constructed first unit of Payra coal-fired power plant is unlikely to go into commercial operation in December next as planned.
According to official sources, the uncertainty looms over the commercial operation of the vital project as the required transmission lines could not be completed yet.
"We had hoped that necessary transmission lines will be ready by November 15 next. But the current situation doesn't suggest that it'll be possible to get the transmission facilities ready to start the operation by December," Shah Abdul Maula, project director and chief engineer of the Bangladesh-China Power Company Limited (BCPCL), told UNB.
He said the substation in Gopalganj, which will connect the transmission lines from Payra plant, are still under construction.
The BCPCL, a special joint venture company of Bangladesh's state-owned North-West Power Generation Company Ltd (NWPGCL) and China's state-owned China National Machinery Import & Export Corporation (CMC), has been constructing the 1320MW thermal power plant at a cost of about $2 billion as part of understanding between Dhaka and Beijing.
Abdul Maula said the construction of the 660MW first unit of the plant has been completed and now different segments are now under test-run.
"Once the transmission facilities are ready, they'll have to synchronise the whole system," he said adding that all these considerations suggest that the whole process will take more time, "even beyond December".
Officials said this has been the very first power plant to be run through imported coal, and the first consignment of coal reached the country in September 20 last by a large ship from Indonesia.
BCPCL hopes the second unit of the plant will be able to start operation by June next as transmission facilities are completed.
Meanwhile, officials at Power Grid Company of Bangladesh (PGCB), which is responsible for implementing the transmission projects, admitted that they are lagging behind the schedule in some cases for various reasons.
They said a major project was undertaken by the PGCB to build a number of transmission lines and substations to facilitate power evacuation from Payra plant.
These include construction of 160km 400kV double circuit transmission line from Payra plant to Gopalganj, and 164.6 km Aminbazar–Mawa–Gopalganj-Mongla 400 kV double circuit line, installation of 400/132 kV, 3×325 MVA AIS Substation, construction of 9.4 km river-crossing line beside Padma Bridge and installation of substation (400 kV portion) at Aminbazar with 3×520 MVA transformers.
PGCB officials said all these projects are being implemented targeting the power evacuation from both the Payra and Rampal power plants and these projects will cost about Tk 4650 crore of which Tk 3294 crore will be spent on Payra plant transmission facilities while about Tk 1356 crore on Rampal plant's transmission facilities.
"But the main challenge is to construct a 9.4-km river-crossing line beside Padma Bridge which has already got delayed in financing and tender process," said a top official at the PGCB wishing not to be named.
He said there is a schedule to implement these projects by March 2021. "But, further time may require for completing the projects."
Contacted, PGCB executive director (planning and dev) Yeakub Elahi Chowdhury admitted the delay in implementation of the Padma River-crossing line project.
About the Payra plant to Gopalganj line, he said 95 percent of works have been completed although a very crucial part of the Shandha Nadi River crossing of the line remains unfinished.
He said the PGCB targeted to complete the job by November 15. "But all depend on the weather as bad weather disrupts the construction process."
Engr AM Khurshedul Alam, CEO of NWPGCL and acting Managing Director of Bangladesh China Power Company (Pvt) Limited, said if the transmission facilities are ready by December 31, the Payra plant will supply 660 MW electricity to the southern region which mainly covers district under Khulna and Barisal divisions.
"This will be a great help for the government to replace the high cost of liquid-fuel generated electricity with low-cost electricity of coal-fired power plant," he told UNB.