Three hydroelectric plants costing $ 3,620 million, with current and old unresolved problems
September 14, 2023 - CE Noticias Financieras
Three large hydroelectric plants: Sopladora, Coca Codo Sinclair and Toachi Pilatón, built by Chinese companies and which cost the country a total of US$ 3,600 million, are experiencing various complications these days. Some problems have just been detected and others, which have been present for some years, still do not have a definitive solution.
In the case of Sopladora ($ 750 million), a hydroelectric plant located on the provincial border between Azuay and Morona Santiago, which has three generation units of 162.3 MW each, a breakdown in the shaft of the turbine of Unit 02 was detected two weeks ago. The revision was made as part of the maintenance programmed for the 40,000 hours of operation of this unit in this hydroelectric power plant, built by Gezhouba and Fopeca. According to Gonzalo Uquillas, manager of Celec, the problem occurred because although the shaft itself was built with the right steel, the nuts and washers were not of the best quality. When they loosened, the shaft problem was generated.
Thus, a team of technicians from Harbin Electric International, manufacturer of the electromechanical equipment of Sopladora, arrived in Ecuador on Monday to evaluate a temporary, safe and reliable option to repair the affected shaft in order to reduce the downtime of this unit. This is precisely when there is danger of lack of energy due to the low water level. On the other hand, the construction of the new shaft has already been ordered, for a definitive solution.
Additionally, in order to ensure the safety and correct operation of the two remaining generation units of the powerhouse, Celec EP technical personnel carried out a complete inspection of the elements that make up the turbine-generator set of Unit 03. In this case, a problem was also found in nuts and washers, but this advantageously did not affect the shaft. For this reason, this generation unit was to resume its operation and synchronize with the National Interconnected System (NIS) this Tuesday, September 12.
In the meantime, starting September 16, a twelve-day inspection will be carried out in Unit 01 to detect its condition.
When Uquillas was asked about who will assume the costs of the purchase of the new shaft of Unit 02, he explained that the insurance company has already been notified, thus safeguarding the Corporation's property and assets. Uquillas explained that this plant, which is part of the integral Paute hydroelectric complex, was received six years ago.
In addition, he commented that although it is not the same case, he found similarities between what happened with Sopladora and what happened with Coca Codo Sinclair, which has not yet been definitively received and which presented a series of problems related to cracks in the distributors.
Coca Codo ($ 2,500 million), which is located in Napo and Sucumbíos, presented thousands of cracks in the distributors. In any case, regarding Coca Codo, he said that in recent days there was a meeting with Power China (a Chinese company that has Sinohydro as a subsidiary) to seek solutions to the various problems that exist in this plant. He said that currently the eight turbines are available for operation, but the flow does not allow it. The first symptoms of low water levels are already appearing in the eastern region.
He detailed that currently the process of complexing (receiving) of the Power Plant has a 92 % progress. However, the rest of the delicate issues are in arbitration. He also said that Celec has guarantees for $ 190 million, which guarantee that these pending issues will be duly corrected and that the useful life of the plant will be assured for 50 years. He clarified that they do not plan to make the definitive reception until 100% of the issues are corrected, and for this the problems pointed out in the Comptroller's Office and in the international arbitration should be solved.
Among the issues in which progress is being made are the documentary procedures, as well as the dredging of the compensating reservoir. This process will be ready in May 2024, but in the meantime a provisional solution has been agreed to remove 200,000 cubic meters of sediment from the compensating reservoir.
ALLURIQUÍN, Santo Domingo. Two of the three generators of the project have yet to be completed, only the civil work is finished.
On the other hand, said Uquillas, work continues on the Toachi Pilatón project ($ 370 million), which was built by CWE but did not meet the construction deadlines. At the moment, what Celec is looking for is to be able to start the tests of Alluriquín, a 204 megawatt plant and part of the complex, in December 2024. To this end, the Army Corps of Engineers is being hired to correct pending issues.
The good news is that this would allow a 4 % cost saving and two or three months in time. Finalizing this solution will allow work to continue with Tyazhmash, a Russian company contracted in 2019 to complete the project. The company has started to claim for the extension of its permanence.
On the subject, Fernando Salinas, energy analyst and university professor, said that there is a common thread between the three power plants and that the governments have failed to enforce the rights of the Ecuadorian State, with a strong position, because they are works carried out with Chinese financing. The governments have been afraid of affecting relations with that Asian government, in order not to affect a source of financing.
He also considered that Coca Codo and Toachi Pilatón are problems inherited from Rafael Correa's government, but that unfortunately no solution has been found. Toachi Pilatón should have been fixed, it was 82% complete. In any case, he pointed out that from what has been known, the Russian company InteRao has just won an arbitration award in Chile for $ 50 million for Ecuador. Additionally, the Coca Codo Sinclair issue could have been solved by handing over this asset to the construction company, but extinguishing the country's debt.
For Salinas, Coca Codo is a serious issue, since the cracks in the distributors have been increasing rather than being corrected. In addition, he warned that one of the greatest threats to this complex is the regressive erosion. "There is a total uncertainty about a plant that represents 25% of the generation," he added. (I)