Twenty-Two Killed, 100 Injured as Boiler Explodes at NTPC’s Unchahar Plant

BY THE WIRE STAFF ON 02/11/2017

New Delhi: A boiler in the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) Unchahar plant in Rae Bareli exploded on Wednesday (November 1), leaving 22 people dead and close to 100 injured.

According to Uttar Pradesh police ADG (law and order) Anand Kumar, the toll from the explosion could rise further as people are feared to be trapped inside the plant.

The boiler pipe burst in the 500 MW power-generating unit that began operating in March, NDTV reported. A massive fire broke out and a large ball of dust rose after the explosion, making rescue difficult, the channel said.

“…there was sudden abnormal sound at 20 mt. elevation and there was an opening…from which hot flue gases and steam escaped affecting the people working around the area,” NDTV quoted NTPC as saying in a statement.

Chief minister Adityanath, who is away in Mauritius on a three-day official visit, ordered that necessary steps be taken for rescue and relief. “The chief minister has taken cognisance of the Unchahar accident and has directed principal secretary (home) to ensure that all steps are taken for rescue and relief,” principal secretary (information) Awanish Awasthi, who is accompanying Adityanath, said.

NTPC said in a statement, according to NDTV, “An unfortunate accident in the boiler of 500MW under trial unit of NTPC – Unchahar occurred this afternoon”.

The injured are being rushed to nearby hospitals, police have said. The district administration rushed ambulances to the plant and directed health officials to provide prompt treatment to the injured. A National Disaster Response Force team has also been sent to help with the rescue efforts.

The coal-fired plant is owned by India’s biggest power utility NTPC Ltd, and police officer Dhananjay Singh said the plant, has now been shut down.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted to say officials were ensuring that normalcy is restored.

Deeply pained by the accident at the NTPC plant in Raebareli. My thoughts are with the bereaved families. May the injured recover quickly. The situation is being closely monitored & officials are ensuring normalcy is restored: PM @narendramodi

(With PTI inputs)

https://thewire.in/193493/ntpc-boiler-explodes-unchahar-12-killed/

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NTPC blast due to pressure to start unit ahead of schedule?

BISWAJEET BANERJEE

The Unchahar power plant where the blast took place

All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF) suspects safety standards were compromised in the company’s haste to operationalise unit a year ahead of schedule

Did officials of NTPC compromise on safety resulting in the accident in which 30 workers, most of them casual workers, lost their lives and 66 others received burns, some of them over 70 per cent, and are struggling for their lives at the Unchahar Thermal Power Plant?

Questions are being raised whether the unit no. 6 of the Unchahar Thermal Power plant was ready for trial. Was the operation cleared by the competent authority or did the NTPC board or chairman force officials to start operations without allowing a “cooling period” for the plant to settle down?

Electrical engineers NH spoke to said that normally it takes a new, thermal unit three and a half years to four years to become operational. But at Unchahar, this particular unit was being pushed to become operational in two and a half years. Was the NTPC chairman also under pressure, they wondered.

“The admission that around 150-200 people were working in the boiler section at the time of the accident is a clear indication that work in the plant was not complete. In a running plant only 5-6 people work at a time in that section. Why were so many people working there ?” asks Shailendra Dubey, Chairman, All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF) .

Safety factors should not be compromised in the company’s rush to complete projects ahead of schedule, the engineers say. The AIPEF has demanded a high level independent enquiry in the whole matter so that such type of incident may not occure in future, he said.

The blast was reportedly triggered in the duct connected to the boiler which is used for transferring ash of burnt coal. It is believed that the ash pipe got choked, causing the blast.

Apart from huge accumulation of ash in the furnace, the problem also got aggravated when the coal powder which was pumped into the furnace developed a `clinker formation’ .As workers were engaged to break the clinkers, the coal supply got disrupted. This disturbed the pressure which rose to +350 mmwc from the normal pressure of +/-5 mmwc into the boiler which started vibrating before bursting from corner number 2, an engineer tried to explain.

“The formation of coal clinkers often causes serious problem for smooth working of a power plant,” confirmed Dubey. He said that the boiler has enormous pressure which needs to be maintained with smooth flow of coal.

He said that AIPEF would be submitting a memorandum to Central Power Minister R K Singh demanding strict adherence of safety measures in running the power plants.

Meanwhile, four critically injured workers succumbed to their injuries at different government hospitals in Lucknow late last night taking the toll to 30. Still more than 60 critically injured were admitted at different hospitals.

Principal secretary (home) Arvind Kumar said that 19 people died in Rae Bareli while the rest died in different hospitals including in Lucknow.

The victims were mostly contractual workers engaged in construction work of the boiler.

According to an eye witness, a big explosion rocked the campus with black smoke engulfing the unit. There were around 1150 worker working in the power plant at the time of the incident. Most of the deceased were burnt alive.

According to the reports, the plant was on a trial run and generating 200 Megawatts of power which was not yet being supplied to the grid.

Sasan’s Shadow: An Ultra Mega Power Project’s Dark Side

PWR_100116_Sasan_Splash   For all its record-breaking achievements for speed, innovation, and efficiency, the 3,960-MW Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project should have been a POWER Top Plant. But the unique project has been plagued by serious setbacks—including loss of life—that show how perilous the plant construction journey can be.

A decade ago, India was suffering a power crisis so dire that only 56% of households in the country with a population of 1.1 billion had connections to the grid. (Today, it’s 81%; see this issue’s “THE BIG PICTURE: Still in the Dark” in the Global Monitor department.) Where electricity was available, power cuts were routine, and Indian industry, so used to failings of the national grid, was forced to build its own “captive” generating plants. In 2005, gripped by the prospect of a widening chasm between demand and supply (at the time, demand exceeded supply by 12.1%), India’s central government set ambitious targets to add 100 GW of new generating capacity over the next 10 years to fuel its surging economy.

One of its most formidable ventures to boost this virtual doubling of generating capacity was the introduction of ultra mega power projects (UMPPs). Backed by the Ministry of Power and the Central Electricity Authority, the program consisted of two stages. First, it tasked the state-owned Power Finance Corp. (PFC) with setting up subsidiaries known as “special purpose vehicles” (SPVs) to procure land, water, and environmental clearances as well as power purchase agreements and to allocate coal blocks to fuel a dozen planned 4-GW UMPPs scattered around the country. Secondly, the government invited private companies to bid competitively to acquire an SPV based on the lowest “levelized” tariff to be charged for electricity.

In February 2006, the PFC established Sasan Power Ltd. to develop, own, and maintain a UMPP in Singrauli, a district in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. Historically, the region had been covered in forests so dense and wild that it was used as an open-air prison by the maharajas of the neighboring Rewa region. Since construction of a large dam in the 1950s that formed a sizable artificial lake, the Govind Ballabh Pant Sagar Lake Reservoir, and the discovery of rich coal deposits spread over 2,200 square kilometers of nearby land, Singrauli has been transformed into an energy hub. Owing to its proximity to an abundance of coal and water, today the region has an operating power capacity of more than 10 GW—mostly from coal-fired plants, and projects of up to 15 GW are under construction.

Reliance Power (then known as Reliance Energy Ltd.), the power-generating arm of conglomerate Reliance Group, ultimately acquired Sasan Power in August 2007 at a levelized tariff of 1.196 rupees/kWh (about $0.026/kWh at the time). That year, Reliance also snapped up SPVs and related assets for another UMPP: the 4-GW Krishnapatnam project planned for Andhra Pradesh state. And in 2009, it won rights to set up the Tilaiya UMPP in Jharkhand state.

Tilaiya was canceled last year, owing to inordinate delays in land acquisition. As Reliance told POWER, the Krishnapatnam UMPP is also in regulatory limbo. The project was to depend on imported coal from Indonesia, but following rule changes, the price of that coal has shot up. “The company has moved Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) for [a tariff revision], citing ‘force majeure.’ The matter is subjudice,” the company said, declining to comment further.

Sasan, on the other hand, was fully commissioned by April 2015—a stunning 12 months ahead of schedule.

A Project of National Significance

Putting Sasan online on schedule was a matter of “national importance,” Reliance said, as it would benefit 350 million people in seven Indian states and territories: Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Uttarakhand.

Project construction officially kicked off in 2009. Reliance’s construction arm, Reliance Infrastructure Ltd. (RINFRA), won the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract. RINFRA then appointed consultants such as Black & Veatch, HOK, Toshiba Power Systems, and Indian engineering firms Development Consultants Private Ltd. and STUP, among others, to design and develop the project.

The project’s major equipment was sourced from a number of entities (Table 1) from around the world.

PWR_100116_Sasan_Table1

Table 1. Sasan Ultra Mega Power Plant’s major equipment suppliers. Courtesy: Reliance Infrastructure

Today, the UMPP is a 3,960-MW supercritical coal-fired power plant consisting of six 660-MW units and two government-allocated coal mines located about 12.4 miles away from the power plant. The project and associated coal mines account for nearly 10,000 acres of land, of which nearly 7,000 acres is for the mining operation. That makes it one of the biggest integrated coal mine and power projects at a single location in the world.

Among the project’s most remarkable attributes is that it transports coal to the power plant from the coal mines via a 9-mile-long overland conveyor belt (Figure 1). Reliance noted that the single flight conveyor system “has a higher reliability, longer service life, [it is] compatible for rough terrain, and it requires lower human interface” than the alternatives.

PWR_100116_Sasan_Fig1

1. Coal belt. Coal from two mines leased from India’s government is transported to the 3,960-MW Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project via a 9-mile-long conveyor belt that crosses rough terrain and rivers. The overland conveyor includes head tail drives and two horizontal curves. Courtesy: Reliance Infrastructure

The plant also uniquely uses fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) cooling towers, and it has one of the largest FRP towers in the world, according to its manufacturer, Hamon Shriram Cottrell, a joint venture between Belgium’s Hamon Group and India’s Shriram Industrial Holdings.

By the time the project was deemed complete, it had achieved several “firsts” for an Indian power plant:

■ It was the first time in the country that boiler light-up for steam blowing was done with coal firing instead of oil.

■ It clocked the country’s fastest hydro test to identify leaks of the boiler.

It achieved commissioning of five 660-MW units within 12 months—the fastest in the country. Four units were synchronized to the grid in a record eight months’ time.

RPower gains after achieving boiler light up for third unit of Sasan UMPP

RPower gains after achieving boiler light up for third unit of Sasan UMPP

Reliance Power rose 1.05% to Rs 67.25 at 15:07 IST on BSEafter the company said that boiler light up has been achieved for its third 660 MW unit at the 3,960 MW Sasan Ultra Mega Power Plant.

The company made the announcement during trading hours today, 13 January 2014.

Meanwhile, the S&P BSE Sensex was up 298.16 points or 1.44% at 21,056.65.

On BSE, so far 10 lakh shares were traded in the counter as against average daily volume of 17.55 lakh shares in the past one quarter.

The stock was volatile. The stock rose as much as 1.87% at the day’s high of Rs 67.80 so far during the day. The stock lost as much as 0.22% at the day’s low of Rs 66.40 so far during the day. The stock had hit a 52-week high of Rs 98.50 on 22 January 2013. The stock had hit a record low of Rs 58.55 on 28 March 2013.

The stock had underperformed the market over the past one month till 10 January 2014, sliding 9.39% compared with the Sensex’s 2.34% fall. The scrip had also underperformed the market in past one quarter, declining 7.7% as against Sensex’s 2.4% rise.

The large-cap company has equity capital of Rs 2805.13 crore. Face value per share is 10.

Reliance Power (RPower) said that the achievement of boiler light up for its third 660 megawatts (MW) unit at the 3,960 MW Sasan Ultra Mega Power Plant (UMPP) is a critical milestone of the boiler commissioning activities for the unit.

The first 660 MW unit of the Sasan UMPP had been commissioned in March 2013 while the second unit was synchronized to the grid in December 2013, reached full load and is operational, RPower said.

The Sasan UMPP is the world’s largest integrated power plant and coal mining project.

RPower’s consolidated net profit rose 4.3% to Rs 250.50 crore on 22.4% growth in net sales to Rs 1320.63 crore in Q2 September 2013 over Q2 September 2012.

Reliance Power, a part Reliance Group, is India’s leading private sector power generation company.