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Chinese Connection: Engineers on warpath over Norochcholai manuals


Senior CEB engineers, associated with the troubled Norochcholai coal power plant, have complained that even after more than a year of commercial operation the Chinese contractor is yet to provide vital documents such as the Operation and Maintenance manuals and ‘as-built’ drawings of the facility.

They told The Island that the high powered Ministerial committee, headed by Prof. Ranjith Perera of the University of Moratuwa, should take serious note of the matter. “The Committee can certainly take six months and inspect those 500 files, but it will not find the essential documentation needed by operations and maintenance engineers to run the extremely complex facility,” engineers said.

They said that the Chinese contractor had ignored numerous requests by the CEB to provide those vital technical manuals and layout drawings. As the engineers did not have those documents, CEB engineers had to rely on the Chinese contractor not only when attending to major plant breakdowns but also in solving day-to-day operational problems.

As a result the CEB had been compelled to award a six-month operation and maintenance contract to the Chinese contractor at a cost of nearly Rs. 300 million last year, when the main bearing of the plant got damaged, senior engineers said.

Damage to the plant resulted from the failure of essential protective equipment when the 220 kilovolt (KV) transmission, line bringing Norochcholai power to Veyangoda, got disconnected.

The engineers at the operation room were helpless when the plant failed due to the overheating of the main bearing.

The contract documents including technical specification of the first phase of the coal plant were prepared under the supervision of a senior project manager of CEB by an international consulting firm from Switzerland hired by the CEB.

However, the engineers claimed that the technical specifications or accepted international standards had not been adhered to in the construction, testing or commissioning of the plant, which was put into operation some eight months in advance.

The same contractor has built the 220,000 volt transmission line from Norochcholai to Veyangoda, including associated works at several grid substations. No documentation has been provided to the CEB in respect of those works as well.

Engineers said that the Ranjith Perera committee should carefully study the technical requirements and other specifications including applicable international standards stated in the contracts and find out whether the Contractor had fulfilled those obligations.

They insisted that the ‘investigation’ should not be used to give credibility to malicious allegations levelled against engineers through the media, as happened in the case of the 2011 investigation at Kelanitissa Power Station carried out by a similar committee headed by Professor K. K. Y. W. Perera.

A spokesman for the Chinese contractor however said that they had provided manuals in English.

Ceylon Electricity Board, Chairman Prof. Wimaldharma Abeywickrema told The Island yesterday that he had to check whether manuals in English had been submitted as claimed by the contractor. He said that they had asked for a number of documents and were in the process of receiving them.

The Chairman said that the investigations into the recent breakdowns would take more time, as the Committee had asked for additional time

By Ifham Nizam

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