Two big cooling towers and one lofty white chimney can be seen among a plethora of industrial machinery and hundreds of workers are busy working at the site for Port Qasim coal-fired power plant in Pakistan’s southern port of Karachi.
This 1,320-MW project, one of the 21 energy projects, is the first coal-fired power plant being constructed under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Pakistan.
The $2.08 billion project, located some 37 kilometres in the southeast of Karachi on the coastline of Arabian seas, ranks top among the priority implementation projects or early harvest projects in the energy sector being developed under the CPEC.
The Power Construction Corporation of China through its subsidiary PowerChina Resources Limited and Al Mirqab Capital, an investment company controlled by Qatar’s royal family, hold 51 per cent and 49 per cent of the project’s shares respectively on a Build-Own-Operate (BOO) basis that was also partially financed by the Export-Import Bank of China.
Once the plant, controlled by the Port Qasim Electric Power Company (Private) Limited, is completed and starts production, it will cut Pakistan’s current power shortfall by almost 20 per cent and will not only ease daily life but also create hundreds of thousands of jobs by helping restart the industries that were closed due to power shortage.
According to statistics from the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA), Pakistan is facing a shortfall of 6,000 MW of electricity with an average demand of over 22,000 MW in the summer season.
During the peak of summer, the duration of load shedding in urban areas, including Islamabad, is 12 to 14 hours while in rural areas the duration is from 16 to 20 hours, causing unrest among the masses who often hit the streets to protest against load shedding.
The project’s average annual energy output will be around 9,000 Gigawatts which is enough power to support four million families’ power consumption for a year.
The work on the project site began on May 21 last year after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif performed the ground breaking ceremony.
The project was originally planned to be completed over a period of three years, but the first 660-MW unit will be completed by the end of next year and the second 660-MW unit will be finished in March 2018, five and two months ahead of the original deadlines respectively.
Around 1,600 Pakistani workers and almost the same number of Chinese engineers and workers who have been working 24 hours on the site in two shifts have completed 130 per cent of the work that was planned to be completed by the end of June.
The project has directly created more than 1,500 job opportunities for Pakistani workers and will employ more during the peak of the construction phase, while it will also employ around 200 Chinese and between 200 and 300 Pakistani trained professionals during the operational stage.
Both of the production units will be fuelled by imported coal from Indonesia, Australia and Africa, for which a company has already been established in Singapore. A pier with a capacity of 50,000 tonnes coal storage is being built at the site that could be extended to 70,000 tonnes capacity.
“The project adopts the world’s leading supercritical thermal technology and will also follow environment-friendly operations, including seawater desalination and flue gas desulfurisation,” said Wu Xianing, assistant to the general manager of the project. The basic infrastructure work has almost been completed at the 200-acre project and now production equipment is being raised.