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Data analysis points to more breakdowns than planned outages at Lakvijaya

Sri Lanka Sunday Times

The Lakvijaya coal power plant has been shut down multiple times since its commissioning with its three units being affected to varying degrees. While some of this is owing to planned maintenance, official data indicate that many were breakdowns.

Between 2015 and 2020, there were 102 complete outages spanning 1220 days. The highest number was in 2015, with 31 outages amounting to 295 days (once every 12 days, on average) followed by 2016 when there were 26 outages amounting to 270 days (once every 14 days, on average).

'Normally, the maximum maintenance shutdown is one month, maximum two,' said Vidhura Ralapanawe, an energy sector analyst who deconstructed the data. 'But the numbers show that these outages are a result of breakdowns as opposed to planned outages.'

In 2017, there were 11 outages amounting to 188 days (once every 33 days); in 2018, there were 15 amounting to 228 days (once every 24 days); in 2019, there were 15 amounting to 161 days (once every 24 days); and this year, so far, there have been four complete shutdowns amounting to 78 days (once every 42 days).

The analysis looks at daily data from January 2015 to June 2020 and assumes a breakdown if the power drops down to less than 1000 MWh a day. At full capacity, the plant produces 6500 MWh per day.

Unit 1 of the coal power plant began generating electricity from 2011. Units 2 and 3 were commissioned from 2014. Between 2011 and 2013, apart from three maintenance shutdowns - ranging from 24 to 56 days - the power plant was out of commission 21 times.

The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) has been avoiding planned maintenance at the plant to keep it running, it was also revealed. A special report by the Auditor General covering the period from January 2016 to April 2018 shows that there was a 6-day outage imposed for maintenance of Unit 1 in 2016. In 2017, Unit 3 had a planned maintenance of 11 days. And in 2018, Unit 1 had a planned maintenance of 13 days. However, Unit 2 was not shut down for a single planned maintenance during this period.

The Auditor General finds that there were also 419 days of breakdowns during the same period. 'So, out of a 449 days of outages, 93.3 percent were breakdowns,' Mr Ralapanawe says. 'A planned maintenance for a unit would be a maximum of two per year. The high number of outages per year indicates that they are breakdowns rather than planned failures.'

Lakvijaya was intended to run at 900MW capacity. 'But the plant only ran a shockingly low 11% of the time-216 out of 1994 days-at this capacity,' Mr Ralapanawe said. 'Part of the reason is the boiler tube cracking in on April 17, 2017 due to the plant management not ensuring the pH balance of feed water. This problem was not solved and the plant generated 80MW less until it was fixed this year, in February 2020.'

The CEB is now pushing for an extension to Lakvijaya of another 300MW and claiming it will be run at 85 percent combined plant factor, he pointed out: 'It's an achievement never reached during its operation time. In 2019, high plant factor was only achieved by skipping the scheduled maintenance planned for both Units 2 and 3.'

The last time a Level A maintenance was done at Lakvijaya was in July 6, 2015, at Unit 1. But the plant could not be revived till July 13 the following year (though it generated some limited energy in March and April 2016). It broke down again in October 2016 and was not operational for three months till January 2017.


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