The largest hydroelectric plant in the country, Coca CodoSinclair, is once again under the scrutiny of the Comptroller General of theState.
Yesterday November 14, 2018, during the reading of the draft report of the special examination carried out on the execution, completion, liquidation and reception of construction and inspection contracts; and operation and maintenance of the work, it was reported that damages have been generated to the State and the operation of the plant has been put at risk.
In this hydroelectric plant, which was operational two years ago, the control body ratified the existence of cracks in the distributors. These failures were already detected in these parts in 2014 and the company Consulting Inspection Services (CIS) confirmed its existence in 2015.
The distributors, located in the machine house, receive the flow that comes with force by the fall and then transported to the turbines to generate energy. On average, during the period analyzed between December 16, 2015 and April 30 of this year, 7,648 failures were identified. The biggest ones have 38 centimeters. The problem occurs, according to Comptroller, because the company Sinohydro Corporation, which is in charge of this work, used materials not approved to build the eight distributors, did not perform an adequate quality control or applied technical procedures to weld the fissures.
“The repair procedure was not adequate.” This has forced the contractor to repair these faults twice, in 2015 and 2018, because the presence of these fissures is recurrent. The draft report only reports the cracks that have been determined in the external and access areas, but there are parts that are covered by concrete and steel plates, so it is impossible to determine if there are more faults.
A full assessment would require removing all the concrete from the powerhouse, for which USD 1 010 million was allocated. This amount is equivalent to almost a third of the USD 2 851 million invested in this work considered emblematic by the previous Government.
Other parts that present problems are the impellers of units 4 and 6. These mechanisms allow the turbines to rotate with the force of water and then produce energy. However, these parts have not been intervened, according to the Comptroller, because Sinohydro does not respond to the orders in the time established by contract nor does it effectively solve the defects reported by the company Coca Codo Sinclair, which operates this hydroelectric plant.
At the end of this special examination, on April 30, 171 defects were registered in the hydroelectric power station without attention or solution. In addition, there are other breaches in the works. One of them refers to the construction of the permanent operation camp. This work has an advance of 76.3%, for this reason the Business Unit of Coca Codo Sinclair must incur transportation expenses for the technical and administrative personnel from the camp to the hydroelectric power station.
USD 763 560 have been earmarked for this item. Sinohydro also failed to comply with the training plan and ongoing training of the hydroelectric operating personnel, in accordance with the technical requirements.
Regarding the environmental issue, the previous report indicated that those responsible for the environmental management of Coca Codo Sinclair did not submit the terms of reference for contracting and executing the environmental audits to the Ministry of the Branch, in the periods 2014-2016 and 2016-2018.
Neither was the issue of the environmental license processed for the operation phase of the project. In the handling of the waste that was generated in the permanent operation camp and the distribution of fuel, there were also evidences of the Chinese company’s non-observances.
To look for an exit to this situation, Celec has requested that the construction company hire a group of experts to audit and verify the current situation of the project, establish recommendations and value costs, if applicable.
The current Government has decided not to receive the work until Sinohydro complies with the contract requirements. Coca Codo Sinclair, which has a maximum capacity of 1,500 megawatts (MW), operates on average at 900 MW and 1,200 MW, according to information from the Ministry of Energy.
According to that State Portfolio, Coca Codo does not operate at full capacity because it delivers energy according to the requirements of the National Electricity Operator. According to Ricardo Buitrón, consultant in hydroelectric projects, the defects found represent a risk for the useful life of the plant, since they are located in the part of the plant that has the most pressures.
The failures “have a direct influence on the efficiency ofthe units because they reduce their generation and, therefore, the expectedbenefits.” (I)