Two years since the project started, the construction work on the Port Qasim Coal-Fired Power Project has made a major breakthrough as 90 percent civil work has already been completed while 95 percent work has been executed over the jetty.
A random but surprise visit to the project site has revealed interesting facts. The Chinese engineers and their Pakistani counterparts are working days in and days out to get the construction work completed ahead of the schedule.
The hustle and bustle of workers at the project site reflects how much hard work the company is putting into the project to meet the timelines. From engineers to the labourers, everyone looks focused at the project work, totally ignoring the fact that a stranger journalist is visiting the project site.
Amid deafening noise of machines and men on work, Mr. Cai Bin, CEO of the Company, told this scribe that at the start of April 2017, the #1 boiler hydro test was completed, and the milestone of #1 unit back energizing and # 1 steam turbine casing box up was achieved. The company has confidence that the #1 unit can synchronize, as scheduled at the end of this year.
All the work is being completed ahead of schedule and with good quality, aiming to deliver reliable and affordable electric power to the people of Pakistan as early as possible. Though the Chinese workers are overstretched, the work is being conducted 24/7 with an elegant speed as Pakistan government strives to meet the energy shortage as soon as possible.
Port Qasim Coal-Fired Power Project, with the capacity of production of 1320 megawatts, is one of the leading energy projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which are making rapid and luminous progress to help Pakistan meet its growing energy requirements.
With an overall energy-starved economy and around 220 million energy-deficient citizens, the federal government is heavily banking on its strategic partner, China, to help meet its energy needs.
Like a true "iron-brother", Chinese government too has leaned forward by launching projects under CPEC. Out of the total early harvest projects, energy projects top the list.
The Port Qasim project is being jointly developed by Power Construction Corporation of China through Powerchina Resources Limited and Al Mirqab Capital S.P.C. Powerchina and Al Mirqab have holding of 51% and 49% shares respectively on Build-Own-Operate (BOO) basis in the 1320MW power project.
The project ranks first among the Priority Implementation Projects in the energy sector being developed under the CPEC. This is one of the early harvest projects and is expected to achieve commercial operation status by June 2018. The project, however, will start generating power by the end of year 2017.
Port Qasim is a 2x660MW coal-fired power project, located in the Port Qasim Industrial Park, 37 kilometers Southeast of Karachi. It comprises two units with total gross capacity of 1320 megawatts (with integrated self-use Jetty) and an average annual energy output of around 9000GWh, able to support 3-4 million families' power consumption for a year.
Fueled by imported coal, the project adopts the world's leading supercritical thermal technology - being introduced in Pakistan for the first time.
The environment-friendly operations include seawater desalination, secondary circulating seawater cooling and flue gas desulfurization, satisfying the environmental standards of the World Bank. The generated power will be evacuated through 500KV AC transmission line connecting the project with the national grid. The construction period of the project is 36 months.
The total investment of the project is approximately $2.085 billion. The loan is arranged by the sponsors through project financing from the Import-Export Bank of China (China EXIM Bank), without increasing the financial burden of Government of Pakistan.
The construction of the plant started on May 7, 2015. Over 80 per cent of the engineering works were achieved by April, 2017.
MODERN TECHNOLOGY FOR INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL STANDARDS
Mr. He Shiyou, Deputy General Manager of the Company told that the complex satisfies the environmental standards of the World Bank.
"We have adopted the world’s leading and mature technology – supercritical thermal technology for this plant which provides high-efficiency, low coal consumption and low emission of carbon dioxide," he said.
Shiyou said that though this technology is increasing the project cost but Powerchina wanted to ensure least impact on the public life.
He added that the Company had also put in place other environmental friendly operations to make sure that the human and sea life are not impacted by the plant's emissions.
"We have set up another machinery to make sure seawater desalination in a bid to save the potable water. Moreover, secondary circulating seawater cooling has been installed to reduce the impact on the marine organisms. Another step we took is the flue gas desulfurization to reduce air pollution," he added.
He said that environmental measures adopted by Powerchina were unprecedented in Pakistan.
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT
Another colleague Mr. Fazal Rahim, who is the coordinator of public affairs, said that the company had sought No Objection Certificates (NoCs) from Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA).
"SEPA granted approvals of environmental impact assessment of the power plant and jetty respectively on 17 June 2014 and 30 January 2015, after lengthy evaluation procedures including rounds of public hearings attended by local residents, communities, government authorities, factories, NGOs, fisheries' association, research institutes and the media," he added.
Fazal said all the observations raised by the audience were deliberated upon by the project sponsor and considered in the project design or expressly clarified to relevant stakeholders.
SACRIFICE BY CHINESE INVESTOR, WORKERS
Chinese investors are encouraged by the Chinese government to develop power project in Pakistan, with a target to address the dire energy shortage of brotherly country. Chinese investors even use their upfront equity to conduct the construction before financial close, which is not common worldwide and with a high risk. This is only to achieve the completion of project as early as possible, to help mitigate daily load shedding of electricity.
''Currently, thousands of Chinese workers are working at project site round-the-clock, thousands of miles away from their families. We are here to work for the well-being of the Pakistani people. We are confident that our sacrifices would be fully recognized here." says Mr. Wu Xianing, one of the constructors working at the site.
URGENT DEMAND OF COAL-FIRED PROJECT
Coal-fired power is an instant solution to the dire energy crisis in Pakistan, since it only takes less than three years to construct the power plant. Comparing to the hydropower project which may take average eight years construction period, and wind power in small capacity, it is no doubt that coal-fired project is the best option to fulfill and meet the country's urgent demand in the short timeframe.
Port Qasim Coal-fired Power Project applied for upfront tariff which is approved by NEPRA after lots of professional experts' study and public hearings. Mr He Shiyou says the Power Project is not aiming at earning the highest profit by using coal to sacrifice the environment.
"On the contrary, it applies supercritical technology seeking the imported coal from Indonesia or Australia with higher calorific value, to reduce the coal consumption and emission of carbon dioxide," he added.
"Although the environmental technology and imported coal are costly, all the cost is within the framework of Upfront Tariff, which will not increase the bill of power consumers while it would only decrease the profits of the project sponsors," maintains He Shiyou.
NO ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS FOR LOCALS; SAYS WATER & POWER MINISTRY
Mr Zafaryab Khan, the spokesman at Ministry of Water & Power, says that the procedures and machinery installed at Port Qasim Power Project was even better than what is being practiced in the modern world. He said the carbon dioxide emissions from Port Qasim Power Plant would be "very low", having no negative impact on human or marine life.
He also rubbished the criticism over coal fired power plants and said that even developed countries like Japan and even US were using coal power plants.
"In the US, 43 percent energy needs are being met through coal plants. Moreover, Port Qasim Power Plant is adopting the same procedures as adopted in developed nations. They would be using imported high quality coal while supercritical thermal technology is being used by the company which ensures very low emissions," he added.
He said that SEPA had issued NoCs to the company after making sure that there is no environmental cost due to the project. He said that even the ADB-funded power project at Jamshoro had adopted the same technology.
"You know, the ADB and World Bank make sure that there is no impact on environment due to these coal-based power projects. Same is the case with Powerchina which has adopted all necessary safeguards and best practices to ensure environmental protection," he added.