Payra coal fired 1320 MW power plant (2x660 MW) was commissioned in 2020 and now it is in operation as the single largest power plant in the country. The plant delivers the generated power to the national grid at a cost of Taka 6.40 per unit with a fuel cost of Taka 2.5/unit. The power supply cost from the coal based power plant is cheaper than LNG and liquid fuel based power plants. According to the plant's Managing Director engineer Khurshedul Alam cost of fuel at Payra will be reduced once the Payra Port will complete its dredging works to enable large coal ships to berth at the port.
During 15-17 January 2021 when we visited the Payra power plant site, it was switching operations from unit 1 to unit 2. At that moment, Payra power plant was generating power from its one (660 MW) unit and delivering the power to the national grid (the upgradation of the grid is ongoing and can not evacuate more power from Payra than the present generation). Two coal carrying vessels had taken berth at the nearby jetty and huge crane guided grabs were busy unloading coal from the 6,000 tonne capacity ships for the power plant. To keep one unit of the power plant in operation, nearly 6,000 tones of coal have to be supplied to the plant boiler daily. As the Rabnabad channel (near Payra power plant) has insufficient draft to allow coal carrying ocean-going ships (requiring at least 12 m draft), the Payra power plant has arranged a fleet of 6000 tonne capacity barges requiring significantly less draft to tranship coal from the mother vessel anchored at the outer anchorage and deliver coal at the plant site jetty. Coal unloading facilities and a number of covered conveyor belts help deliver the coal and store them in the covered coal yard. The power plant boilers get uninterrupted fuel coal supply as the plant authority has secured a 10 year coal delivery contract with an Indonesian coal mine P. T. Bayan Resources. Once the grid line is ready to evacuate full capacity of the power, Payra plant would be in a position to deliver 1320 MW.
Payra coal fired power plant is Located at the remote Dhankhali village of Kalapara Upazila of Patuakhali district. 130 families affected by the project got rehabilitated at the model rehabilitation village called 'Swapner Thikana' near the plant boundary area. The Payra power plant authority (Bangladesh-China Power Company Ltd., a joint venture company under the North West Power Generation Company of Bangladesh) has established the Bangladesh-China Technical Institute and bears all expenses of the institute. Bangladesh-China Technical Institute's principal Mr. Abdus Salam explained to us that the institute accommodates 38 boys and 10 girls from the locality for a two year vocational training course free of charge on electrical maintenance works, general mechanics, computer and information technology. The rehabilitation village and education facilities are in addition to the direct financial compensation packages paid to the project-affected people for the land and other properties sacrificed for the nationally important project.
The new establishments built on the project area, its residential and office complexes, nearby villages have almost no trace of dust and gaseous material or water pollution. The plant's environment, health and safety manager Ms. Masuda Parveen showed us the water treatment facilities, electrostatic precipitator (ESP) and Flue Gas Desulfurisation plants (FGD) installed in the plant area. She explained that the plant operates with the latest Ultra-Super Critical Technology which ensures higher thermal efficiency and reduced fuel requirements for the plant. As a result, the plant releases minimum dust and emission gases like carbon di oxide, oxides of nitrogen, oxides of sulfur. The plants flue gas travels through ESP and FGD plants installed adjacent to the power plant boilers prior to its release in the atmosphere through the stake with 120m height. The ESP unit effectively captures 99 per cent dust, and the FGD plant removes 93 per cent of the oxides of sulfur from the boiler.
The Payra power plant has been selling its collected fly ash and gypsum (processed products at the plant site using the oxides of sulfur at the FGD plant) to cement manufacturers. The plant boiler generates 90 per cent fly ash and 10 per cent bottom ash from burning coal. As the plant imports coal from Indonesia with minimum sulfur (0.3-0.53 per cent) and ash (4-7 per cent) having calorific value of 5050 kcal/kg, the total waste remains very low. A very small amount of bottom ash released every day from the plant boiler is dumped at the plant's designated ash pond or sold to interested local buyers (mainly brick makers). The automatic devices installed at different locations of the power plant monitor the air and water quality data and feed them to the different offices including the Department of Environment. Officials from the Department of Environment (DoE) in Barisal and Dhaka offices confirmed that they have been receiving online real time emission data from the Payra Power Plant. DoE officials are confident that the Payra power plant is operating efficiently complying all environmental standard parameters.
Payra phase-2 (1320 MW) power plant has started its construction works near the plant in operation. Additionally, Rural Power Company Ltd. (RPCL) of Bangladesh and Norinco of China Joint venture Payra 1320 MW power plant are progressing their construction works. All these power plants will require coal supply (nearly 40,000 tonnes daily) and the coal transportation channel Rabnabad will face serious traffic jam unless Payra Port completes it dredging and maintains its draft levels at 16 meters to accommodate huge coal transportation ships (60,000-80,000 tonne carrying capacity).
The coal supply requirements in Asia Pacific zone for the power plants will not be reduced in the next decade. Indian and Chinese requirement for heating coal is expected to remain stable at least until 2030. Both the countries consume huge volumes of coal for power generation. The World Energy Outlook 2020 predicts that the demand for coal in the power and industry sectors in India and South East Asia will grow (compared to 2019 level). The International Energy Agency (IEA) considers that in Asian countries coal fired power plants will exceed the drop in coal fired power generation in the United States and Europe as the regions strong economic growth will drive electricity and industrial consumption. As a result, coal will be the world's largest power generation fuel for the next five to ten years. Coal fired power plants under construction in the country, therefore, need to secure long term coal supply agreements with coal producers so that uninterrupted coal supply for the power plants at an affordable price will be ensured.
Mushfiqur Rahman is a mining engineer and writes on energy and environment issues.