The Sapele power plant is Nigeria’s second largest power station. With its planned acquisition it is obvious that a lot of refurbishment would take place for the plant to meet the desire of providing the needed power supply that would be pumped into the national grid.
To achieve this therefore, a comprehensive equipment upgrade is all that it takes to restore the plant to its full potential.
Its prospective owners, a Chinese-Nigeria-UK Power consortium, comprising China Machinery Engineering Corporation, (CMEC), Eurafric Energy of Nigeria, British Power International and First Bank plc, won the bid to acquire 100 percent equity in the 1,020 MW capacity power plant.
The power station is one of six generation companies that have been put on offer by the Federal Government to core investors in the ongoing power sector reform and privatisation programme.
With an offer of $201 million, the consortium has paid $50,250,000, being the 25 percent of the share purchase price and would be required to pay the outstanding 75 percent of the bid price within six months, as stipulated in the power privatisation guidelines before it can take over the asset.
The plant was built between the 1970s and early 1980s to enable Nigeria meet rising demand for electricity by Shawmount Limited, a firm of consulting engineers. The preliminary construction work on site clearance and were executed between 1972 and 1975, but actual construction of the power plant which is located at Ogorode, beside River Ethiope in Delta State, started in January 1976.
It was strategically located in the gas-rich region for easy access to natural gas feedstock and the river for cooling its steam turbine generators. Apart from the availability of natural gas and water, other considerations for building the power plant in the area were due to the availability of high pour fuel oil (HPFO) from the Warri refinery and haulage of equipment/materials through the sea.
The power plant has an installed capacity of 1,020MW, consisting of 6 x 120MW steam turbines, which generate a daily average of 86.72 MWH/H or approximately 2,500 GW/H annually. The plant also has 4x75mw gas fired turbine with a combine capacity of 300MW installed in 1981 to utilise in full the natural gas potential that is available in the area. At optimal output, the plant generates some 972 MW of electricity.
The first unit, a steam turbine (STO1), was commissioned by Olusegun Obasanjo, former president, while he was the military head of State on September 12, 1978. Other steam units and the gas turbines were commissioned between 1979 and 1981. The steam turbine generators and boilers were designed and installed by Brown Boveri (BBC), now Asia Brown Boveri (ABB) and Deutsche Babcock respectively, while the entire gas turbine system was designed and installed by BBC.
The steam turbine has facilities for either firing the boiler on natural gas or HPFO, a feature that distinguishes the plant from others. The boiler type is water in tube. The installation of the gas turbines raised the plants total installed capacity to 1,020MW from the 720MW in 1978. Also, the plant boasts an updated control and switchgear rooms.
In addition to its core assets, the power station also has a staff training school and medical facility, a housing estate near the power station, a two-in-one primary and secondary school to carter for the children of members of staff and the immediate communities.
According to Reginald Ifionu, the chief executive officer of the power plant while giving an update on the current status of the plant, he confirmed that only Steam Turbines 1 (STO1 and STO2) are currently generating a combined output of 165MW, but efforts were being made to bring back STO3 back on stream to add 100MW.
Ifionu said by the end of April, when the STO3 would have resumed operation, the station’s total grid contribution to the national grid would rise to 265MW from the 165MW currently generated.
Also, the problem of inadequate gas supply has further hampered its operations. Investigations revealed that only two of the six steam turbines units are available for operation at the moment, while none of the four gas turbine units is operational.
The CEO attributed the dwindling capacity of the power station to continued use of the pneumatics instrument and control system, rather than digital instruments. He said because the equipment is archaic and no longer readily available in the market, sourcing the spares has become an uphill task.
Aside the fact of the plant’s old technology it missed several generations of upgrades due to financial constraints.
In 2011, for instance, the station’s budgetary proposal was put at N4.8 billion, but only N760 million was said to have been approved, while only N468,000.00 cash backed.
On the issue of gas supply to the plant, Ifionu believes that gas supply is expected to improve due its proximity to oil and gas installations in the Western Niger Delta. The gas suppliers to the power plants are the major oil companies such as Shell, Agip,Total and Seplat Petroleum, an indigenous company. Seplat can however provide the plant’s gas requirements at its current operational level of between 165-265MW. But at higher generation output Seplat would need to make substantial investments in new/additional gas production infrastructure to be able to meet projected generation levels in the coming years.
The recently signed gas supply/purchase agreement was the necessary impetus to gas producers for such significant/costly investments. “The gas supplier (Seplat) would have such bilateral arrangements. At the present, we do not have other direct contracts,” he said.
Still expressing optimism on the viability of the power asset, Ifionu said all that would be needed to return the plant to optimal levels is a comprehensive restoration and upgrade of non-operational units. “As earlier noted, the station has gone down from 1020MW initial installed capacity to between 165 – 265MW available capacity today.
“But there is a lot of room for improvement. The station has the greatest potential (in comparison to all other existing successor companies) for capacity recovery,” he stressed.