By Chandeepa Wettasinghe
In the backdrop of a national energy crisis, the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) will be opening up a tender to construct a liquid natural gas (LNG) power plant in the future, a top official said.
“We’ll be calling for a 200MW or larger LNG plant, and anyone can compete,” CEB Chairman Anura Wijayapala said at a recent seminar organized by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and the energy regulator Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL).
He revealed this after admitting that the power supply to the grid may be stretched until 2021 when the first phase of the Sampur coal-fired power plant will come online.
Until then, only small projects are expected to be commissioned. Experts are calling to question whether the 5 percent annual increase in electricity demand could be met without starting construction of larger power plants within the next 2 years.
“We get proposals, some of which have very favourable terms for the CEB, but the 2009 Electricity Act prevents us from accepting unsolicited proposals,” Wijayapala said.
The LNG to power the turbines will be purchased from abroad, as the initiatives to develop local gas deposits in the Mannar Basin were halted after Cairn India pulled out its operations.
Bids to develop the explored wells, as well as to explore other offshore blocks around the country are expected to start soon.
However, developing a terminal, pipes and other infrastructure is likely to cost over US$ 1 billion, which Wijeyapala said, would make any energy generated too expensive for the foreseeable future.
He noted that the CEB prefers to deal with gas or oil power generation instead of coal-fired power plants as the latter require greater maintenance, have stricter permit processes and are time consuming to start or stop, which waste energy.
However, he said that the cheapness of coal requires the government to invest in such projects.