Chinese Construction Company Negligent — Officials

  • Fire At Norochcholai Power Plant

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

Norochcholai Power Plant

The country’s power and energy sector believes that last Sunday’s fire at the Norochcholai power plant was caused due to the negligence of the Chinese construction company.
Power and Energy Minister Champika Ranawaka has already said that the cost of the damage caused by the fire, which is yet to be clearly estimated, would have to be absorbed by the China National Machinery Equipment Export and Import Corporation, which is the main contractor of the Norochcholai power project.
A senior CEB official attached to the Norochcholai power plant project, on the basis of anonymity said that although investigations into the fire were on-going, the fire was caused due to the negligence of the construction workers. Three teams, including the CID, are conducting investigations into the fire at Norochcholai.
Interestingly, the fire at the power plant is the second incident within two months where negligence on the part of the Chinese has resulted in some sort of destruction.
On September 17, an explosion took place at the Karadiyanaru Police Station in the Batticaloa District due to the alleged negligence of the Chinese construction company, Covec-China, when loading explosives into a truck. The explosion resulted in the death of 19 persons while injuring 44 others. The Karadiyanaru Police Station was completely destroyed in the explosion.
The October 24 fire at the Norochcholai power plant now becomes the second destructive incident to take place due to negligence on the part of Chinese construction workers.
However, Minister Ranawaka says that the fire at Norochcholai would not affect the construction work of the plant and that he expected the first phase of the project to be commissioned in January next year, adding 300 MWs to the national grid as planned.
The power plant is to be inaugurated on November 17 as part of the oath taking celebrations of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s second term in office. The Norochcholai power project has been estimated at US$ 455 million with the funds being provided by the Exim Bank of China.
The CEB official however expressed concern over the availability of the plant, where the cleaning of sulphur dioxide takes place, when starting oil firing next month. He explained that the area that caught fire last Sunday was a plant to clean the exhaust gas that removed sulphur dioxide when burning coal. “If the quality of the coal is good, then the waste could be sent through the chimney, if not, we have to select the option of purifying it. The price of coal depends on its sulphur content,” he said. Low sulphur coal however is high in price. Sri Lanka is to import coal from Indonesia for the Norochcholai plant.
The fire had taken place in a tower in the purifying plant. The tower is 22 meters high with a cross section of 12×12 meters and a filtering media that is plastic. When the fire had taken place, several Chinese construction workers have been engaged in welding and cutting work on top of the tower.
“The fire may have been caused due to a spark that would have fallen when welding,” the CEB official said. The fire had burnt the internal material of the tower and had also damaged the concrete structure as well. “The Atomic Energy Authority is expected to conduct a non destructive testing to determine the extent of the damage caused by the fire,” he added. The equipment supplier from China is expected to arrive in the country to assess the extent of the damage to the equipment.

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