'Disappearance of Coal': Barapukuria plant faces shutdown
12:00 AM, July 22, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:33 AM, July 22, 2018

'Disappearance of Coal': Barapukuria plant faces shutdown

The Barapukuria coal-fired power plant is going to shut down in a couple of days for an indefinite period due to its fuel mysteriously disappearing from a yard, officials said. 

Two units of the plant, with the capacity of 125MW each, has already been turned off while the other more efficient unit, with a capacity of 275MW, was starving of fuel and was only producing 150MW, said Mahbubur Rahman, superintendent of the power plant in Dinajpur's Parbatipur.

The plant, which depends on coal supplies from Barapukuria Coal Mining Company Ltd (BCMCL), requires 3,300 tonnes of coal a day but now it is using just 600 tonnes.

Mahbub said the plant may shut down on July 25.

The problem surfaced after the mysterious disappearance of 1.42 lakh tonnes of coal, worth about Tk 227 crore, from the BCMCL yard, officials said.

The matter of coal going “missing” came to light on Monday when Abu Sayeed, a board member of Power Development Board (PDB), visited the mine. 

At a meeting on June 20 between Petrobangla and PDB officials in the capital, a mine official said coal stock on the yard was around 1.80 lakh tonnes. But in reality, the coal yard was virtually empty.

High officials of Petrobangla and PDB visited the area on Monday and Tuesday and found only around 30,000 tonnes of coal.

“Around 1.42 lakh tonnes of coal was not there,” said one of the visiting officials.

BCMCL officials said around 2.50 lakh tonnes of coal were on their yard until March 30 and the mine produced over 1.85 lakh tonnes between then and June 29. The plant burnt around 2.50 lakh tonnes of coal between April 1 and July 10. There was a deficit of 1.42 lakh tonnes.

Meanwhile, coal production has been suspended since June 29 to relocate equipment to a new coalface. Production is expected to resume at the end of next month, said a general manager of the mine.

The acute shortage could have been averted if the officials of BCMCL, the only supplier of coal to the plant, informed the plant authorities about the coal crisis on time, said a number of officials of the plant, wishing anonymity.

“They never informed us officially about the crisis,” said an official.

Power generation would continue at the plant if PDB, which operates the plant, gets enough coal.

PBD officials who visited the Barapukuria plant yesterday said they were worried because they were yet to assess for how long the power generation would be suspended.

On Thursday night, Ayub Khan Chowdhury was made managing director of BCMCL as additional duty after Petrobangla removed Habib Uddin Ahmed and Abul Kashem Prodhaniya from the posts of managing director and secretary of the mine. A general manager and a deputy general manager were also suspended.

Ayub Khan Chowdhury reached the coalmine site yesterday but refused to comment.

On Thursday, Petrobangla, which runs the BCMCL, formed a three-member probe body led by its director (operation) Kamruzzaman to investigate the coal going missing.

The power plant is the biggest buyer of coal produced at the mine. The plant pays around Tk 11,000 for a tonne but brickkiln owners pay Tk 17,000 per tonne.

The BCMCL management prefers selling to brickkilns. “It helps them get the annual profit bonus for officials,” claimed a PDB official wishing not to be named.

The brickkiln owners and locals told The Daily Star that the mine area was secured and that they can't imagine how the coal went missing. 

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