With the dawn of the industrial age, electrical energy became a necessity for societies to develop and keep pace with the rapidly transforming world economy. Those countries which established a robust, well maintained system of electric power supply were able to soon outpace their competition in terms of economic output and social development simultaneously.
The requirement for reliable and cheap electrical power has become even more pronounced in the present time as almost 20 percent of all electric power is consumed by our communication needs alone.
Keeping in view the acute shortage of electricity as well as fast-track installation of power houses in the country, the government decided to introduce a major power production centre in Punjab. Sahiwal was selected for some very pragmatic reasons.
Sahiwal is located between major load centers of Lahore, Multan and Faisalabad. The creation of a major power production unit here would help improve the grid stability by a significant margin.
Water is also readily available via the Lower Bari Doab Canal (LBDC).
Fuel could also be easily supplied via the existing railway track which runs parallel to the LBDC. All these eventuated the creation of the 1320 MW Sahiwal Coal Fired Power Plant.
The construction of the power plant was started in 2015. Supercritical boiler technology was selected for its fuel to energy efficiency of 40 percent and above, which is far better than the existing technology being used by the IPPs of the country.
Using this modern technology, the unit cost of Sahiwal coal fired power plant is much lower than the unit cost of furnace oil based IPPs and comparable to the unit cost of RLNG based power plant.
The total project cost was 1.8 billion USD and the total time from the start of construction to operation was 22 months, which itself set a new record for fastest thermal power complex construction.
On the electrical side, the project has been a significant success. Stable operation of the Sahiwal coal fired power plant, coupled with its cheaper cost of generation has resulted it in becoming a base load power generation unit.
This means, Sahiwal coal fired power project is given priority compared to other thermal IPPs because of the much lower cost, higher stability and availability. Sahiwal has maintained more than 90 percent availability since its inception, which is a testament to the technology being used and the proficiency of the staff.
Cheaper cost of coal also reduces the imported fuel bill. The power plant provides 9 billion kWh of electricity annually. During the pandemic, the power plant is kept in operation with all the recommended safety measures ensured to the employees.
Cold-side electro static precipitator (ESP), limestone forced oxidation flue gas desulphurization (LSFO FGD) system and low NOx burners efficient operation is kept in line with the power generation from the complex, to remove particulate matter & Hg, SO2 and NOx from the flue gas respectively.
The emission values of SO2, NOx, particulate matter, CO and Hg are far below the allowed values given by Punjab Environmental Quality Standards (PEQS) and World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for industrial emissions. Moreover, air quality monitoring station is installed nearby the power plant, to monitor the quality of ambient air.
This not only ensures the cleaner and sustainable power production from the power complex but also the priority of the enterprise in protecting the environment for the well-being of the people of Pakistan.
Recently, utilizing the operational data of LSFO FGD system installed at the power plant, and collaborating with the local and foreign scientists, the author has published the research in the peer-reviewed journal of American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) .
Beyond the technological achievements of Sahiwal coal fired power plant, the company has also been paying attention to its CSR initiatives.
An agreement for a technical training school was signed between the power plant and Energy Department Punjab in 2017 and the company has established the “Huaneng Ruyi Technical Training School” with the investment of more than 500 Million Rupees which is located within the Sahiwal Coal Fired Power Plant premises. The company aims to provide free education and technical training for local communities with the expense of around 50 Million every year. The company’s aim is to train about 300 locals every year. Moreover, the company also pays attention to green initiatives. The most significant of these is the massive tree plantation drive carried out with the aim to plant and take care of 60 thousand trees.
All of the above-mentioned facts highlight the positive aspects that the creation of the power plant has brought to the country. Not only has the power plant brought significant grid stability and much cheaper electricity compared to other IPPS, many local benefits have also been realized.
Sahiwal Coal Power Plant is a first project that has achieved commercial operation under CPEC framework, has paved the way for the future benefits in a “win-win” manner and has achieved that through the tremendous skill, hard work, persistence and efforts of the people involved in its continual development.
The writer is an employee at Sahiwal Coal Power Plant as well as a researcher at the University of Engineering & Technology Lahore and can be accessed at firstname.lastname@example.org.