SERIOUS FLAWS BEHIND OUTAGE

By: Kaushalendra Singh

SALALAH: Chain of events have been listed as reason behind five-hour blackout on August 14, 2014 in Salalah and its adjoining areas. Based on an investigation, the Authority for Electricity Regulation issued a statement stating the reasons behind the blackout and the steps taken to restore regular supply.

The outage, according to the statement, was triggered by a sudden drop of gas pressure at one of the power plants and the subsequent failure to successfully switch to backup fuel, eventually leading to a loss of all generation units in the plant. The investigation report presented key findings commissioned by the authority.

The abrupt outage had caused traffic snarl ups and disruption in fuel supply at petrol filling stations.

Being the beginning of khareef season, large number of vehicles had come to Salalah from the neighbouring countries and long queues of vehicles were seen at petrol stations waiting to refill their tanks.

Qais Saud al Zakwani, Executive Director and Member of the authority, said: “The Salalah system blackout left customers without electricity for unacceptably long period. The authority conducted a formal investigation of the incident and making the report available for public inspection. The investigation identified serious shortcomings in the response to the incident.

“Some licencees were not properly prepared for such an event and their response was haphazard. This left the customers without electricity for longer period than expected in such situations.”

The statement said that the authority assumed direct regulatory responsibility for the Salalah Power System on January 1, 2014 and has a statutory duty to ensure the security of supply. “We believe that more could have been done from a regulatory perspective to ensure the licencees complied with the conditions of their licenses and we intend to ensure the recommendations of the investigation report are addressed by the licensees as an immediate priority.”

Customers have the right to expect electricity companies to expend maximum effort when providing services and to ensure they benefit from continuous and reliable supplies of electricity.

The authority wishes to reassure customers that appropriate steps will be taken to secure improvement in the performance of licencees and to ensure the failings identified during the Salalah System Blackout are rectified, the statement said.

“I acknowledge the full cooperation and transparency of the licensees during the investigation. This enabled the authority to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the incident and propose recommendations to ensure a similar incident is not repeated,” said Al Zakwani.

Giving background details of the blackout, the statement said that the Salalah power system experienced a total system blackout on August 14, 2014.

The blackout was apparently due to a sudden drop of gas pressure at one of the power plants which then failed to successfully switch to backup fuel, eventually leading to a loss of all generation units in the plant.

The failures in the production facilities placed the dispatchers at the Oman Electricity Transmission Company (OETC) in a difficult position, that despite their best intentions and efforts, they did not have the resources to manage effectively.

“The difficulties were compounded as SembCorp Salalah Power and Water Company SAOC (SSPWC) had reported issues that prevented them providing the black start services that they were expected to implement in accordance with the provisions of the contract between them and the Oman Power and Water Procurement Company (OPWP).

The Salalah system is supplied by two gas fired generation plants namely SSPWC and Dhofar Generation Company SAOC (DGC). Since July 2014, the Salalah system is synchronously interconnected to the Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) system through a 132 kV interconnector.”

The investigation identified issues at DGC who also experienced problems with their black start procedures and the OETC dispatchers were only able to black start the system by utilising the interconnector with PDO.

The investigation also highlighted areas of concern with the performance of OPWP with regards to ensuring the performance of the power stations complies with their obligations.

The authority commissioned BF-c Energy consulting to identify the technical reasons for the interruption and investigated the overall management of the incident by the licencees.

SOURCE: OMAN DAILY OBSERVER

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