- Scraps open bidding, says direct contracting will avoid delay
ISLAMABAD: Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) has reportedly proposed direct contracting instead of open bidding for rehabilitation of 969-MW Neelum Jhelum Hydro Electric (NJHEP) Project to avoid delay, sources close to Chairman WAPDA told Business Recorder.
Prime Minister has directed to hire the best international consultants for carrying out investigation and suggesting remedial measures while pre-qualifying the prospective firms based on their expertise and capacity in doing similar work.
Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Company (NJHPC), a subsidiary of WAPDA, has briefed an inter-ministerial committee headed by Minister for Water Resources on July 26, 2022 that open competition bidding will be time-consuming, saying that after following the complete steps involved in open competitive bidding method based on pre-qualification, the international consultants’ could be mobilized tentatively in 150 days in a best case scenario, once the bidding process starts.
Such mobilization of international consultants could be 115 days after the estimated completion of dewatering, assuming the bidding process continues without any snags like request of firms to extend the submission dates of EoIs and/or proposals, etc. Interest of the prospective firms to bid is not guaranteed.
On July 13, 2022, the Prime Minister called a meeting on this issue and expressed his serious concerns on the outage of 969-MW plant.
After the meeting the Prime Minister’s Office on July 15, 2022 issued certain directives which are given below along with the current status of compliance: (i) Project Management Team shall work round the clock to complete the remedial works at the earliest which has been implemented ;(ii) A Committee consisting of the following shall formulate/ finalize ToRs for investigation, diagnostics and remedial measures to be suggested by the Third-Party Independent Expert(s) , i.e., Minister for Water Resources, Minister for Power, Minister for Law & Justice, Dr. Muhammad Jehanzeb Khan, SAPM, Secretary, M/o Water Resources; (iii) Secretary, M/o Power and Chairman, WAPDA.
Implementation on this recommendation is in process as the Committee is holding its meeting soon.
Commenting on directing contracting, Wapda says that open competition would be avoided and proposals could be sought from a limited number of firms known to WAPDA/ NJHPC, suggesting that PM’s directives should be reviewed to avoid pre-qualification.
“The matrix of pros and cons suggests the ‘Direct Contracting’ method of procurement as the shortest possible course which if adopted may have the international investigation Consultants mobilized within 20 days of completion of dewatering,” the sources quoted NJHPC as saying.
In order to save time, under PPRA rules 42(c) (v), NJHPC started engagement with the original contractor of the project M/s China Ghezouba Group of Companies (CGGC) to undertake task of remedial/ repair and maintenance works for which the contractor has shown willingness.
NJHPC has held series of meetings with the Project Consultants and the Contractor.
Consultants proposed design (mucking 2 followed by concrete lining) for the remedial works to which Contractor responded in meeting on July 21, 2022, with modified design (support the damaged portion with lattice girders followed by mucking and shotcrete). Accordingly, Consultants advised Contractor to submit quotation for both the options.
Consultants will finalize the methodology. It is; however, clarified that the actual work requirements can only be defined once extent of damage is known by undertaking inspection after the tailrace tunnel is completely dewatered.
On July 4, 2022 in the morning when the plant was generating electricity at its full capacity of 969 MW, abnormal increase in water leakage was reported in the powerhouse cavern at El. 600m and below.
The water leakage was managed and controlled through continuous operation of the in-built drainage pumps, and by diverting the excess water to other drainage holes available in the powerhouse.
All precautionary efforts were adopted to save from potential short-circuiting the energized electrical equipment in the powerhouse.
In the morning of July 5, 2022, an emergency meeting of the project’s O&M and Consultants’ teams was convened in the powerhouse to analyze the situation for deliberating on the root cause of the issue of water leakage.
A detailed visit of the powerhouse was carried out. Further investigation revealed that the pressure in tailrace tunnel increased from 600m to 616m.
On the basis of the severity of the situation, following additional measures were immediately taken to avoid possible damage to the powerhouse and installed equipment: (i) generation was reduced gradually to 200MW due to which tailrace tunnel’s pressure dropped from 616m to 602m.
This resulted in significant reduction of water leakage in the powerhouse;(ii) subsequently tailrace tunnel started increasing once again due to which the load was further reduced from 200MW to 125 MW; and (iii) on July 6, 2022, it was further noted that even at generation of 125 MW, the pressure in the tailrace continued increasing, therefore, on July 6, 2022, all the units were stopped and kept in standby mode.
Sharing details of possible causes of the incident, the sources said, project consultants analyzed the situation and submitted an initial report according to which, primarily, following are the possible causes: (i) there is a high probability of a failure of shotcrete lining leading to rock fall in the tailrace tunnel; and (ii) the high pressure noticed in the powerhouse may be attributed to such blockage created in tailrace tunnel due to possible rockfall.
The Consultants have recommended that NJHPC’s Plant O&M team should investigate the apparent tailrace tunnel blockage as soon as possible, the sources said adding that the fastest way to inspect the tailrace tunnel would be to dewater the tailrace tunnel using permanent tailrace dewatering system and the truck-mounted mobile dewatering pump.
During hiring of independent experts(s) for investigation, diagnostics and suggesting remedial measures, utmost care shall be taken in order to ensure that only those companies are pre-qualified which possess the requisite experience, expertise and capacity. The hiring process maybe completed at the earliest.
The independent experts shall also be responsible for validating the remedial measures to be undertaken by the contractor. During the diagnostics the Expert(s) shall also look into the possibility of occurrence of blockage in other components of the Project and suggest measures to prevent any such failure in future.
Since the Neelum Jhelum Project is covered under the contract of insurance, the Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Company (Pvt) Limited shall lodge claim(s) with its insurers in a timely manner to compensate for the losses incurred by the Company.
Tunnel dewatering started on July 10, 2022, after making necessary arrangements. As standby arrangement, spare mobile pumps were also arranged from Tarbela Dam which reached site on July 9, 2022. Truck mounted mobile dewatering pump is ready to be used in the main tunnel as clearing of mud in access tunnel has been completed on July 22, 2022. Over 15 m dewatering in the tunnel has been achieved against total 20 m. Long side tunnel and less water seepage from blockage has slowed down the dewatering.
WAPDA/NJHPC Engineers have already made access to the main tailrace tunnel from access tunnel of about 300m, and no serious problem in that part was noticed.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022