Business Interview
Engr. Olice Kemenanabo is an electrical engineer by profession and the Managing Director, Bayelsa Electricity Company Limited. He manages the Kolo Creek Gas Turbine Station, Imiringi, which was hitherto the only source of electricity supply in the oil and gas-rich state. He bares his mind to John Iwori on the challenges of power supply in the country and the way forward

How did you manage to restore the Kolo Creek Power Plant which you have on various occasions come to its rescue.

As far as I am concerned, all glory should go to God Almighty for guiding and directing our affairs and to a government who has continued to believe in me and rendered support each time I send proposals to harness and resuscitate all power assets that are lying waste in the state to justify the huge investments made previously and currently.
The restoration government met a power station that was operating at less than 20 per cent of its name plate capacity of 20 megawatts (MW) because of technical issues that were begging for attention. We met a station that was owing over N400 million in gas bills and without a formal gas supply agreement from 1998. Today, as I speak to you and the Shell Petroleum Development Company Limited (SPDC) will bear me out that we have entered into a firm gas sales agreement that will commit SPDC to supply us gas after payment of 30 percent of the legacy debts. SPDC indeed shut their gas valves this time around. It shut its gas valves because we could not meet the monthly payment scheduled in the agreement. Understandably so as our target was to pay through electricity bills.
The power plant which you are referring was subjected to a comprehensive turnaround from the gas generator which is the prime mover of the plant to the power turbine that had a pathetic history bearing failures arising from oil pump failures to refusal to start by the black start and the intervention emergency pumps not coming on.
We still have teething problems which are not unexpected for dynamic equipment like a gas turbine with precision instruments that has been so neglected for a long period. In fact, even when it was in operation, obvious protection systems were bypassed to ensure that it is forced to run.
All these have been addressed and we will continue to address them as they pop-up even as we shall introduce redundancy to ensure operational flexibility as well as reduce downtimes.

You seem to be abreast with the gas turbine, why bring in expatriates when you can do it even better?
You see no one person can be said to have the entire range of competences and skills that the gas turbine and in particular electrical engineering demand. There are some persons whose responsibility is to be dispatching energy to the various load centres. There are also people who stay in the radio transmission with the sole responsibility of communicating with operators and the entire network or systems. Such people may spend all their entire working live in a power station or transmission stations till they retire without any single knowledge of the engineering principles of how the power system works. My area of specialisation as far as the power plant is concerned is very narrow just as the expatriates who come have their defined roles to play.

But there comes a time when the person at the helm of affairs must take certain decisions that may sound very untechnical. Yet he or she cannot sit on the fence while the solution to the problem is being debated. You must take a decision right or wrong and accept full responsibility. That is one attribute I can say I have and I demonstrated it when we commenced the re-commissioning exercise. There are certain crude and technically unacceptable decisions I took after wide consultations to ensure that the plants ran on March 15, 2017 against all known standard practice and it worked. But that is not to say we will continue to keep it like that. At least, we have identified the problem and have put in place measures to replace or service that particular equipment. That is the reason I frown at people calling themselves power experts. This is due to the fact there are various specializations that must come together to make the power plant work and deliver power to the end users. That is the unique specialization of our United Kingdom technical support service team brings on the table.

What are your challenges?
Unlike other static equipment or infrastructures, the challenges of a dynamic equipment like the power plant begins form the day you start running it. So my challenges are how to keep this and other plants running sustainably to achieve their designed life span. In this case, how do I keep this plant running to attain 48,000 hours running which is the engineering life of the gas generator before it undergoes another complete overhaul. It will require strict adherence to the operating philosophy of the plant and its ancillaries. It will require stocking of fast wearing parts as spares. It will require building human capacity to acquire the right skills and competences.

Finally, it will require collaboration and understanding of the end users of our product changing their perception of electricity power production and distribution.
The successful starting of the Olympus is only a stepping stone towards the realization of the harnessing of all the power plants owned by the Bayelsa State Government which together is about 100MW. This can be possible through an integrated approach and requires the understanding of every stakeholder. Our yearning is to make Bayelsa State a net exporter of electricity. This is a task that must be achieved. It is a legacy I as a person will want to be part of and so let every person who loves Bayelsa State come and join the Restoration Government piloted by the Governor of Bayelsa State to make this a reality.