Equipment breakdown plagues Ratnagiri power plant

Vol 12, PW 18 (12 Feb 09) Midstream & Downstream

Call it bad luck or a jinx, but the gas-based Ratnagiri (Dabhol) power station is in serious trouble, whether it gets an LNG terminal sooner or later.

PETROWATCH learns equipment breakdown is a recurring problem, regularly disrupting electricity generation. Take the latest incident this month on February 1, when a major crack was noticed in one of two gas compressors at the 670-MW Block I.

A Ratnagiri source tells us the compressor was shut for preventive maintenance on January 22, on the advice of manufacturer General Electric, after a “catastrophic incidentâ€‌ in November last year when a blade at a gas compressor in the 740-MW Block III was uprooted from its base and damaged the compressor casing, the turbine and other equipment. “Soon after that incident,â€‌ says our source, “a major crack was noticed in the second gas compressor at Block III which caused the entire block to be shutdown.

â€‌ In January 2008, a gas compressor at the 740-MW Block II was also shut down because of an uprooted blade that caused major damage. Only one gas compressor at Block II is currently functional, generating 320-MW, about one sixth of the plant’s potential.

Ratnagiri management is exasperated with recurring equipment problems at the plant since it was re-started in 2006 after five years of negotiation with Enron and General Electric on termination costs related to the original December 1993 contract. “Equipment failure of this magnitude was the last thing on our minds,â€‌ he adds.

“GE’s refusal to repair the defective compressor equipment at its own cost is a big problem.â€‌ Broken down, these costs amount to Rs240cr ($53m) for each compressor with the uprooted blade and Rs40cr ($8.9m) for each compressor with a crack.

GE, it seems, was “very unhelpfulâ€‌ when the problems with the turbines surfaced. “Only recently did they admit – and that too indirectly – that there could be design issues with these machines,â€‌ we hear.

“Machines like this can’t be found in India but there is plenty of information about the problems with these units in other parts of the world.â€‌