Starved of coal: Payra power plant may shut for weeks
Coal shortage has forced officials to shut down a 660 megawatt unit of Payra power plant on May 25, a first in its three years of operation, and if things stay as they are, the other unit of the plant will stop production in about a week.
Payra 1,320MW Thermal Power Plant has been a reliable source of power for the entire Barishal region and parts of Khulna and Dhaka.
Sources at the country's largest coal-fired power plant say they have only around 50,000 tonnes of coal in stock, and each of the two units require around 6,000 tonnes a day.
The second 660MW unit will also stop operation after about a week, they add.
Bangladesh-China Power Company Ltd (BCPCL) operates the power plant while China National Machinery Import and Export Company (CMC), which has 50 percent stake in the plant, pays for the coal. CMC realises the money from Bangladesh Power Development Board (PDB) within six months of paying for coal shipments.
On April 27, the BCPCL wrote to the ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, the PDB and Bangladesh Bank saying that the CMC imposed a ban on coal supply to Payra power plant. "Till the dues are paid, the coal supply will not resume," read the letter.
The BPDB has yet to pay the dues.
AM Khurshedul Alam, managing director of the BCPCL, told The Daily Star that there was a due of around $300 million and negotiations about the payment for coal were going on with the PDB and Bangladesh Bank.
"As of last Thursday, we got $58 million and have the assurance of getting another $100 million by this month," he said.
Hoping that the CMC will withdraw the ban on coal supplies, he said, "We will open the Letters of Credit. But even if we open those tomorrow, the coal shipment will take at least 25 days to arrive. This means the entire power plant will be out of operation for three to four weeks."
The Power Grid Company of Bangladesh (PGCB) data shows that the power plant was supplying less than 660MW of electricity at 9:00am on Thursday. Yesterday, the production stayed between 300 and 350MW.
Currently, the country is producing around 12,200MW of electricity against a demand of 13,000MW to 13,500MW.
Meanwhile, Rampal Power Plant, which resumed operation on May 16 after three weeks due to coal shortage, was utilising half of the capacity of its only operational unit.
The country was producing around 2,000MW of electricity from coal-based power plants yesterday against a capacity of 3,440MW.
PDB spokesperson Shameem Hasan told The Daily Star that the authority of Payra was asked to keep the plant operational as long as possible.
"We are waiting for the next coal shipment. If the weather stays favourable, the national demand will not rise. And even if the power plant shuts down, there will not be power cuts.
"We will be able to keep a normal electricity supply from other sources," he added.
The first unit of Payra power plant started the commercial operation on May 15, 2020, while the second one started operation a few months later.