OGUZIE: Penchant For Cutting Corners Responsible For Irregular Power, Gas Supply

Goody Duru-Oguzie

Goody Duru-Oguzie

Goody Duru-Oguzie is the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of PowerTechnologies Limited. He is a specialist in hydro and steam driven thermal power plant systems. In this interview with ROSELINE OKERE, he attributed failure of power sector to corruption.

Power situation has deteriorated in the last few weeks after almost three months of almost regular supply. Why are we still finding it difficult to get it right in this area?
AT this stage, it is difficult to directly answer your question, except if we had the privilege to undertake a technical audit of the operational power generating plants and be able to determine; plant availability -sustainability, the status of operating machines and the contributing factors to failures.

Prior to the new administration, we are aware of massive maintenance programmes executed at most of the operating plants. It is, therefore, possible that steady power witnessed initially at the inception of the present administration, were the benefits from the earlier maintenance work undertaken, which needed to be sustained. I presume because the Genco’s are complaining over the lack of funds, they are unable to finance the necessary rejuvenation, upgrades and re-powering expected of them in order to sustain power supply.

Furthermore, it is interesting to note that despite the greater number of National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP), power generating plants, which we have been told, have been operationalised to improve power supply, we must recognise the factor of “Learning curve”, as it concerns especially operationalisation of newly completed and deployed gas turbine power plants. Due to the operational reality of this factor, these plants cannot give their best over a learning period stretching up to nine months from when they were operationalised. At the moment, we are within that range, and as such, it could be difficult to sustain initial capacities.

The country has not been able to attract investors to the power sector since privatisation. What do you think is responsible for this?
Firstly, the privatisation exercise against the opinion held by most Nigerians was not as successful to the extent expected under global best practices upon which the real international investors benchmark their investment decisions. For most of them, Nigeria reallocated ownership of state properties to government agents. If the privatization was conducted in line with best practice, it would have attracted foreign investors with core competence in power operations and the investment loans would have had a period of sufficient moratorium with repayment sufficiently spread over longer periods as obtainable under standard practice.

Today, we all know that those who bought the privatised plants have no money to properly fix them. We are aware that a foreign investor company whose subsidiary built a particular power station located in the South-South geographical zone of Nigeria, and who had the technical competence, which should be the determinant when seeking to re-power an ageing plant, through privatisation, schemed out of the process and the plant handed to people who at the end of the day were requesting the same foreign investor to help them re-power the plant. What an irony! In conclusion, the country is unable to bring on serious investors to make new investments in the energy sector, because of our penchant for cutting corners and doing things in an unethical manner.

That investors are shying away does nothing to do with body language. Our decision makers on matters associated with attracting foreign investors should know that the global community knows more about us than we know ourselves. Therefore, when we scheme and cut corners, we end up promoting worst practices, which results in the bad management of even such process as simple as supplying and dispensing fuel at filling stations, not to talk of power generation and petroleum refining.
Gas pipeline vandalism has been a major challenge of power generation companies; yet, Nigeria has been able to meet its gas supply obligation to Ghana through the West Africa Gas Pipeline. Why is this so?

The West African gas pipeline was a project implemented by a consortium of International Oil Companies (IOCs) who developed a bankable business plan built upon a firm commitment to supply gas to Ghana and other West African states.

Therefore, the pipelines cannot be vandalised because every challenge has been adequately addressed at the planning stage.

On the other hand, I’m not sure there is any business plan regarding the supply of gas to the Nigerian power plant. If there were any, the country would not have been in this mess.

Regarding vandalisation, I think it is a ruse, which the previous government used to fool Nigerians. Therefore, in order to properly place the frequent reference to pipeline vandalization, there is the need for a thorough understanding of the dynamics associated with gas transportation by pipeline, subject the process to scrutiny in order to determine if there are other extraneous factors, that are responsible for the frequency of these occurrences so that Nigerians will know the truth.

Unlike liquid petroleum product pipelines, where the main risk from pipeline puncture due to the said vandalisation (assuming somebody is seeking to steal some fuel which is flimsy) produces a leak through which the ‘vandal’ siphons fuel with consequences leading to contamination of water and soil in the area due to spill, my grouse with telling Nigerians that some faceless people ruptured a high-pressure natural gas pipeline (by vandalisation to scoop gas or whatever purpose) is like feigning ignorance of the high risk due to the ensuing fire that naturally follows any such attempt on gas pipelines.
Ruptures can occur, and have occurred, due to external forces on the pipe (such as being struck during digging) often associated with infrastructure development along the right of way, from internal corrosion of the pipe, external corrosion of the pipe, and from failed welds.

Where such occurs, tremendous heat is given off by the resulting high-pressure gas line fire that within a certain distance of the rupture point, buildings are destroyed and lives are lost without actually being touched by the flame. The larger the pipeline diameter, and the larger the operating pressure, the larger the disaster area is. Safety experts agree that if there is a gas pipeline rupture with the expected ensuing fire at some point along the line, it is anticipated that buildings within 1,115 feet of the rupture will be destroyed and people within that zone will not be able to run to safety without being severely burned.

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