Kahalgaon (Bihar): Lack of adequate road and rail links in Bihar are likely to delay plans of NTPC Ltd to expand generation capacity by 1,000MW at its Kahalgaon project, slowing its plans to have 50,000MW of capacity by 2012.
NTPC, India’s largest power generation utility, had plans to nearly treble the Kahalgaon project from its earlier installed capacity of 840MW to 2,340MW. Though it has been successful in commissioning the first unit of 500MW, the fate of remaining units of similar capacity is uncertain.
NTPC, which has a capacity of 27,404MW, plans to add 22,596MW over the next five years.
“The huge congestion in the railway links, along with low coal supplies, has affected our project,” says Kahalgaon-based Biswanath Mukherjee, a general manager at NTPC. “To make matters worse, the existing rail link between Bhagalpur and Kahalgaon has also been suspended. The quality of roads leaves much to be desired. We are trying to meet the target of March 2008 for commissioning the remaining units, but we are not sure whether it will happen on time. Even the quality of coal is a concern.”
The Kahalgaon project was seventh in a series of super thermal power projects set up by the company. It was set up in 1987 using technical collaboration with the former USSR.
Kahalgaon only gets 40% of its total coal requirement of 6.2 million metric tonne per annum (mmtpa). The plant has less than a day’s stock of coal against NTPC’s minimum requirement of maintaining 15 days of supplies.
“In order to meet the shortage, we blend imported coal with domestic coal. But this model is not sustainable for long. We are trying to pursue our case with the Eastern Railways and Eastern Coalfields Ltd,” Mukherjee said.
Coal is critical for NTPC, as over 80% of its installed capacity is coal-based.
Mukherjee says that good roads are “critical as 90% of goods come by road.” Indeed, the 30km road link to the project site, which is part of the National Highway 80, is in disrepair and allows for movement of only one commercial vehicle at a time.
Poor quality of roads have also led to the problem of ash disposal with hardly any takers for the fly ash generated after burning coal. The plant generates around 3.1mmtpa of ash.
A New Delhi-based power sector analyst, who did not wish to be named because of commercial considerations, said: “Dismal infrastructure support in the form of road and rail links is a fact across states due to power projects located in remote areas. One requires active state government support a lot on the ground... However, these problems should have been flagged by the company much earlier...”