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Major power breakdown hits Punjab, Balochistan

Major power breakdown hits Punjab, Balochistan

ISLAMABAD: The power system on Friday suffered a major breakdown and affected key parts of Punjab and Balochistan following the government decision to close down furnace oil- and diesel-based power plants.

A power ministry spokesman said the breakdown was caused early in the morning by three important factors — smog, closure of plants and reduction in gas supply.

Independent sources, however, said the closure of more than 4,200MW generation capacity on the directives of the prime minister office curtailed the capacity of the transmission and distribution to stabilise the supply system. “You cannot stabilise the system after pulling out 4,200MW or one-third out of 14,000-15,000MW demand,” said a former manager at the National Power Control Centre (NPCC).

The power ministry spokesman claimed that the National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC) “successfully averted a major cascade due to tripping at 11 main 500kc and 220kW circuits and grids caused by unprecedented severe dense fog”. He said such a major jolt could have led to blackout in case of non-existence of system protections.

Last week, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, while presiding over a meeting, directed the power division to gradually close down furnace oil and diesel-based plants and convert to LNG-based generation to minimise the impact of looming capacity trap.

Smog, closure of furnace oil- and diesel-based plants and cut in gas supply cause disruption

The smog-triggered tripping has also led to forced closure of all Chashma Nuclear Power plants (C1, C2, C3, C4) having cumulative capacity of almost 1,200MW. After necessary technical and security protocol the restoration was in progress and would take almost 72 hours to fully revive the Chashma plants, the spokesman said.

The affected circuits and grid stations included 500kV Multan-DG Khan. The 500kV Guddu 747MW circuit tripped along with Multan Bus Bar-1, 500kV Multan - Yousafwala circuit, 220kV Muzaffargarh, Bahawalpur, 220kV Multan-Vehari circuits - I & II, 220kV Vehari - Kassowal circuits - I & II, 220kV Kassowal - Yousafwala circuits - I & II, 220kV Multan-Muzaffargarh circuit - 4, 220kV Multan-Kapco circuit-4 500kV Multan, 220kV Vehari, Kassowal and Chishtian Grids and 220kv Yousfwala-Okara circuit.

The power division spokesman also confirmed that under the directions of the federal government, the power sector had also closed all expensive furnace oil and diesel-run power plants of a cumulative capacity of 4,250mw.

The closed down furnace oil plants included 950 MW Hubco, 1,000MW Muzaf­fargarh, 400MW Jamshoro and 700MW Kapco. The diesel/furnace oil-fired smaller plants which were closed under these directions were Nishat Power, Nishat Chunian Power, Liberty, Hubco Norwal, Atlas and Kel, of cumulative capacity of around 1,200MW.

Besides, the hydel generation average has also come down to 2,700MW against its capacity of 7,000MW due to less releases of water from reservoirs on provinces demand.

The SNGPL has also curtailed 200 MMCFD gas supplies due to annual maintenance of regasifaction terminal at Karachi on Nov 3-7, resulting reduction of 500MW in the system.

“These factors in combination are negatively affecting the demand and supply situation in the country and the power distribution system needs load management for certain period,” the spokesman said.

The power division has directed the NPCC to chalk out a well-managed emergency load management plan for 72 hours till restoration of 1,200MW nuclear power plants.

A separate load management plan after the approximate 72 hours based on demand-supply situation was also being prepared by the NPCC. However, since the demand is declining with decrease in the temperature, the situation was soon expected to show improvement.

The distribution companies were also directed to ensure maximum relief to the consumers.

The distribution companies were further directed to circulate the load management plan within their areas of operation for consumers’ information, the spokesman added.

The unprecedented severe dense smog is posing serious challenge to the national transmission system and the power division, NPCC, NTDC and Discos were closely monitoring the situation. Special teams and lines formations have been deputed by the NTDC and Discos to meet any emergency situation due to the weather conditions. Patrolling of all high transmission lines has been increased by the NTDC.

The power division regretted the inconvenience likely to be caused due to the above-mentioned facts and the consumers in the coming days also and advised the people to adopt energy conservation measures to minimise load on the system. The power division is closely monitoring the situation and shall continue to pass on information to the consumers, it concluded.

Meanwhile, the Punjab government said the smog situation was not as alarming as it was last year.

Environment Minister Zakia Shahnawaz, speaking at a news conference in Lahore, termed it a regional phenomenon being caused mainly by pollutants from India.

“There are local contributions...but they are lesser than the situation in India where rampant crop stubble burning itself is a huge problem,” Zakia said.

Environment Secretary Saif Anjum said smog intensity was less than last year when eye and throat irritation was rampant. Wind too carried pungent smell. Now the situation was not that alarming.

Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2017

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