By Sam Warburton
Rebuilding the infrastructure of Kosovo following war means more than simply repairing damage to buildings. The economic and social fabric of the country is gradually being reestablished by the international donor community.
An adequate and reliable electricity system was quickly recognized as a basic requirement, not just to help the local population but also to ensure that the economy could be reactivated and attract industries to the region.
Since 1999 the European Agency for Reconstruction (EAR) has been funding repairs to the energy sector in Kosovo
Frequent power cuts reminded every single person living in Kosovo about the difficulties they faced. But it was not a simple matter to cure – the energy production infrastructure of the country was in an appalling state.
Years of neglect, lack of maintenance and misuse driven by lack of investment had taken their toll on the power plants, coal mines and transmission systems.
Financing the recovery
The European Agency for Reconstruction (EAR) recognized the problems and moved quickly. In 1999 it put EuroD18 million into the energy sector in Kosovo – this was increased to EuroD110 million in 2000.
This year a further EuroD130 million has been committed solely for energy projects. The money is being spent on technical expertise, specially manufactured spare parts, transformers, special-purpose tools, chemicals and equipment for coal mines.
At the centre of the Kosovan power system are two large lignite-fired power stations: Kosovo A and B. A consortium led by Innogy, the UK-based integrated electricity company, is for the second year running, carrying out vital work on Kosovo B power station while a German-led consortium is working on Kosovo A.
The total installed generating capacity in the country of 1495 MW is supplied by Kosovo A and B and one small hydro plant.
According to Innogy specialists, both thermal plants had been subjected to inadequate maintenance over a prolonged period and were operating at substantially reduced output compared to their overall capacity.
Kosovo B2 availability (EAF) 1984-July 2001
The result was a severe shortage of supply with power cuts of up to six hours at a time, causing considerable hardship for the population during the extreme weather conditions in a country where temperatures can dip to 30à‚°C in the depths of winter.
Innogy secured the first major 640 million contract to overhaul Unit 2 of Kosovo B plant, heading a consortium which included Alstom Power, the original equipment manufacturers.
This contract was completed on time and to budget and returned the unit to reliable power generation in time for last winter.
The project won praise with UK Trade Minister Richard Caborn who said: “It is another major step in the international effort to help Kosovo develop its economy and infrastructure once again. It was pleasing that the British-led consortium successfully bid for the work and even better that it was completed ahead of schedule.”
But there could be no resting on laurels and the consortium has been back in Kosovo again this year after winning a further EuroD20 million contract to carry out further vital work – which had to be completed in a tough eight-week window between July and September.
Mick Queenan, one of the Innogy engineers, said: “In an ideal world we would have taken a short outage last year assessing the power station’s needs and then put together a planned and scheduled programme of work for a longer outage this year.
“In reality work had to be done as quickly as possible last year to beat the deadline before the winter. But finances meant that the 2001 outage must be the smaller of the two. It meant bringing back electricity and literally saving lives in an area that had become used to long protracted power cuts.
“Having worked on the plant last year we had an advantage but with just ten weeks between the placing of the contract and start of work on site to order materials, mobilize and get to the site in an area of the world where politics and infrastructure can be quite complex, it was still a tall order.”
The success of the work carried out in 2000 by the Innogy-led consortium can be spectacularly measured by Kosovo B2’s availability figures. In July 2001 the power plant boasted 75 per cent availability – a figure it had only achieved once before in the unit’s life, 12 years before.
Innogy and Alstom will train a number Kosovan staff and operation and maintenance management support will be available until December 2002
Kosovo B was built to have a generating capacity of 678 MW. It was brought into service in the 1980s and with good practice could prove a reliable source of power for another 15 to 20 years. When work started in 2000 it had an availability of just 20 per cent. This year’s contract has very precise availability and performance guarantees attached to it as the EAR seek to secure maximum benefit for the Kosovan people.
Kosovo B1 and B2 share a cooling tower and with B1 coming off for five months as part of its major overhaul this year an eight-week window was created during which the further B2 work could be completed.
A contract to import electricity during the outages was secured – but it meant there was little margin of error for the work to be completed on time.
The lists of works completed were long and extensive and included work on the boiler and the control and instrumentation systems which were mostly completed by Innogy. Alstom worked on the electrical and mechanical balance of the plant.
Most of the work was identified last year during the extensive refurbishment but could not be carried out then due to the need for urgency to meet the winter deadline or because of financial considerations.
The engineers worked on the boiler balance of plant; renewed a significant number of actuators and valves; installed new data loggers and overhauled the feed pumps and condenser extraction pumps.
The travelling grate, a motorized device which deals with the secondary burning of lignite as it drops to the bottom of the boiler, also needed to be completely replaced.
A new burner management system was installed and extensive pressure part works were carried out. The plan is to renew the HB by-pass valves in the future, but for now the budget stretched to repairs, which were also completed during the eight-week window.
Even though a great deal of repairs and replacements were carried out there are still many areas that need to be addressed. These areas have been highlighted but funds were not available this year. So this hopefully will be the subject of further investment in order to improve availability.
For 12 Innogy engineers it meant being based in Kosovo for the duration of the work. They were at the sharp end of work that involved some 310 people throughout the business.
With the contract being signed at the beginning of May and the cooling tower being put out of action on July 15 there was just a matter of weeks to get mobilized.
Spares and equipment were sourced from many areas, including the internet. But it was not just a case of finding the right equipment to carry out the work – it had to be shipped and transported to Kosovo.
Said Mick Queenan: “Importing anything into Kosovo is not easy. There are border crossings to negotiate, customs regulations and politics to overcome at every stage – so the whole process was not as simple as it would be if the work was being carried out on a power station in say the UK or Germany.”
In the end the work was completed on schedule. Such is the lack of margin of error in Kosovo that even that small delay can result in power cuts in some areas as the imported electricity contract had to end precisely on time.
The EAR reported that as well as having a positive effect on the electricity system of Kosovo the work has led to a positive integration of the local work force, with many tradesmen and contractors from Kosovo being involved in the work and building an understanding of how power systems work.
Operation and maintenance management support will be available until December 2002. This will include up to ten engineers on site to provide advice and training, which is further augmented by off site training for a number of Kosovan staff in both the UK and France at Innogy and Alstom facilities.
Kosovo B is now able to sustain a supply of electricity, but that does not mean an end to power generation problems in the country. Some power cuts are still experienced due to the need to fulfil power export commitments and Kosovan people are being urged to consume electricity in a responsible manner.
Political decisions continue to affect the infrastructure of the country but with an international effort to promote economic reconstruction in Kosovo there is no doubt that a more reliable electricity system will help to attract business, promote jobs and lead to prosperity.