Durgapur project lights up unit 3 before power minister visit

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Durgapur Project Limited (DPL), the state owned power utility company at Durgapur after failing to generate even a single unit of power since December 31 lighted up one of its units. The move is seen as a desperate attempt to “please” Bengal power minister during his maiden visit of DPL today.

Bengal power minister Manish Gupta will meet DPL officials to review the progress of the upcoming 250MW unit VIII, expected to start generation later this year. He is also supposed to discuss the plant’s decision to invest in real estate on its unused land.

Though the vintage unit No 3 of DPL lying almost defunct since 21 November has been charged at 8: 20 am yesterday, but till yesterday evening it fell flat and could not begin to generate power. Even, Mr Mrinal Kanti Moitra, MD, DPL told reporters: “The unit is yet to get ready and we are not sure whether it would help generation by tomorrow.”

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Once considered as the pride of Durgapur, DPL has not generated electricity in the past six days. DPL’s unit Nos. VI and VII, which has been the mainstay of its production in the last few years, stopped production on 31 December after developing snags for the third time in two months apparently because of overloading. Both units went out of order around the same time.

Three other units — III, IV and V — that have been lying idle for the past two months as the 50-year-old facilities consume too much fuel escalating production costs. The three units generate power at a cost of Rs 5.50 a unit, while the utility sells electricity at Rs 4.19 per unit.

DPL sources said the snag-hit VI and VII units would take at least a fortnight to be repaired. However a power department official pointed out that there is not much hope revival of the situation until the upcoming 250 MW eighth unit begins production by the end of this year. He also said that DPL needs Rs 2,500 crore to upgrade the three old units and there is not much hope that the state government will sanction such a large amount.

Durgapur Project authorities have already started electricity rationing as it is not possible to buy the entire quantum required. Almost all the localities of Durgapur is witnessing power-cuts for hours since last week.

Meanwhile the leaders of CITU and INTUC at DPL have alleged that the company which had not bothered to light up its defunct units for the past two months even though thousands of people in and around Durgapur suffered is now just attempting to hide the embarrassing situation from the minister.

Asked about the allegation of the unions, a senior executive of Durgapur Project who declined to be identified said: “Our coke oven plant will shut down if we do not supply steam for a long time to unload crude coal tar. Units VI and VII have been supplying steam, but they also shut down on Tuesday. So we had no alternative but to light up the unit. It is also true that it would be very embarrassing if we showed zero record in production for nearly a week to the minister.”

Now it is to be seen whether the DPL authority undermine the situation and hide the whole thing from power minister or puts up the constraints Durgapur Project is facing.

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