VRA's coal plant to start April 2017

May 13, 2016
Source: Dominick Andoh | B&FT Online | Ghana
VRA's coal plant to start April 2017

Construction of Volta River Authority's proposed 700megawatt coal plant is expected to commence in April 2017, the Authority's tentative project timeline has shown.

The coal plant, to be sited in the coastal town of Aboano in the Ekumfi district of the Central Region, is expected to augment current generation and help the largest power producer diversify its power generation portfolio to meet the growing energy demand.

Ben A. Sackey, Manager, Environment and Social Impact-VRA said: "Based on the project timelines, we expect to start construction on April 17, 2017. But that is also dependant on getting a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency. We are working closely with EPA to ensure that all the stringent environmental requirements are met."

The coastal town of Aboano was selected as the ideal location after initial consideration of sites in Domunli, Akwidaa and Komenda purely on technical and economic bases, Mr. Sackey noted.

The coal power project is to be undertaken by the Volta River Authority (VRA) and its Chinese partner, Shenzhen Energy Group Co. Ltd. of China (SEC).

The China-Africa Development Fund (CADFund) is to provide an about-US$1.5billion long-term loan for the construction of two 350MW coal-fired plants to meet future power demand.

This represents the first phase of developing coal plants by the largest power producer, as it seeks to strengthen the country’s base load and forestall any future shortage of power when existing plants are due for mandatory maintenance.

The plant is to be further expanded either by 4×350MW (or 2×600MW) supercritical coal-fired generating units in the future, as demand is expected to continue increasing. The project includes the construction of a coal port solely dedicated to taking delivery of imported coal.

VRA and SEC, after a successful pre-feasibility study and design of the plant, have since served scoping notice to allow individuals, groups and organisations with special interest, concerns and expert knowledge on environmental impacts to furnish the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), VRA and SEC with it.

Why coal

Current electricity demand for the country currently stands at about 2,225MW. This is growing by 10 percent per annum and is expected to hit 7,000MW by 2030.

However, constraints on fuel sources for power generation -- crude oil, gas and water for hydro power generation -- have necessitated the need for exploring cost-effective, reliable, and clean power sources.

Given the current gas demand of about 450Mscf per day, indigenous gas and limited supply from the West Africa Gas Pipeline are unable to meet demand. Available indigenous gas is also expected to run out by 2036.

Coal, on the other hand, is available at a cheaper cost around the world. Advancements in coal power technology have also made it possible to generate clean power from coal.

Coal supply has also been secured from Glencore Xstrata of South Africa, which has about 30.2billion tonnes of reserves. The second coal supplier is Anglo America from Columbia, which has about 6.2billion tonnes of coal reserves.

There have however been calls by various civil society organisations such as the Ghana Youth Environmental Movement (GYEM) against the establishment of a coal plant due to environmental impacts of coal recorded in other parts of the world. They contend that coal plants have negative effects on the environment.

Green Peace International contends that: “Coal burning power stations continue to speed up global warming by filling the atmosphere with vast amounts of carbon dioxide. Coal burning leads to acid rain and smog, and emits more than 60 different hazardous air pollutants such as a variety of toxic metals, organic compounds, acid gases, sulphur, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and particulate matter”.

Mitigation measures

These concerns, VRA contends, are well addressed in the design and technology of the proposed coal plant. The VRA is proposing to use the latest clean-coal technology -- super critical -- in its first coal-plant.

“Domestic sewage water, coal waste water and oil wastewater will be treated separately, and then reused. Only circulating cooling sea water will be drained out of the plant.  A thermal plume dispersion modelling is being undertaken to predict the permissible size of the mixing zone and the effect on sea. Effluent levels are to be monitored as part of the project monitoring plan,” Mr. Sackey said.

“We will conduct reasonable overall planning for the plant area; arrange high-noise equipment far from the area which is sensitive to noise; and reduce noise level by green-belt planting – that is planting arbor and shrubs on roadsides around the main powerhouse and nearby other sound sources as required, so as to reduce noise through the noise-reduction function of plants.

“The proposed power-plant sites are far away from the nearby villages; it is predicted that the contribution value of power-plant noise to the residential areas will be low, so power plant noise won’t disturb the local residents,” he added.