Ejiofor Alike in Lagos and Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The nationwide blackout continued Wednesday after efforts by the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) to restore electricity failed, following a second system collapse of transmission network at exactly 14.19 hours.
According to TCN, the second system failure occurred when the Odukpani-Ikot Ekpene 330kV transmission line tripped, cutting off electricity generation and transmission from the Odukpani power station to the grid.
A statement Wednesday by the company’s General Manager, Public Affairs, Mrs. Ndidi Mbah, however, assured Nigerians that restoration of the grid had reached an advanced stage.
TCN added that it had also commenced investigations to determine the exact cause of the system disturbance.
“The system disturbance happened at a time when work on the Western Gas Pipeline (Ecscavos-Lagos Pipeline System) by the Nigerian Gas Processing and Transportation Company Ltd (NGPTC), which caused a system collapse at about 21.17 hours on Tuesday was yet to be completed.
“The grid would have withstood the Odukpani infraction, if generation along Lagos region was available,” said TCN in the statement.
TCN explained that NGPTC, the gas supply and marketing subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), had indicated that a contractor had been mobilised to repair the affected segment of the Escravos-Lagos pipeline, so that gas supply to the Omotosho, Egbin, and Olorunsogo I and II thermal power stations could be restored.
“According to NGC, work would be carried out day and night and is expected to be completed within 24 hours,” TCN assured the public.
The TCN stated that with the support of the Ministries of Power and Finance it had embarked on the implementation of a Transmission Rehabilitation and Expansion Programme (TREP) aimed at expanding, rehabilitating and stabilising the national grid, and appealed to Nigerians to be patient with it.
The national grid had collapsed on Tuesday night following a fire incident reported by the NGPTC on its Escravos-Lagos Pipeline System near Okada, Edo State.
NNPC had attributed the incident to a bush fire, which spread from Abakila in Ondo State.
The incident led to the shutdown of the pipeline supplying gas to the 1,320MW-capacity Egbin power station in Lagos; 676MW-capacity Olorunsogo NIPP station; 338MW-capacity, Olorunsogo I power station; 450MW-capacity Omotosho NIPP station; and the 338MW-capacity, Omotosho I station.
However, THISDAY gathered that the affected stations were generating about 1,200MW at the time of the fire incident, as they were not producing at full capacity.
It was also gathered that before the Tuesday fire incident, a peak generation of 4,685.3MW was recorded and wheeled out to the grid on Monday, while the lowest generation on the same day was 3,667.5MW.
THISDAY also gathered that at exactly 06:00 hours on Tuesday a total of 3,749.90MW was generated and transmitted to the grid for distribution to the 11 distribution companies.
Investigations revealed that TCN made efforts to sustain minimal supply after the closure of the Escravos pipeline, using generation from the hydroelectric power stations and other gas-fired plants located outside South-west but these efforts failed at exactly 14.19 hours Wednesday when the country was plunged into total darkness.
A source at TCN told THISDAY that officials of the company worked hard to restore the system with generation from the hydro stations and other plants but the efforts failed.
“As it stands, there is no supply to the National Control Centre (NCC), Osogbo, and no supply to the main regional control centres at Shiroro, Ikeja West and Benin.
“Lagos is in total darkness and the same thing applies to the North and other parts of the South. So, the country is in darkness,” he said.
A source in one of the distribution companies also told THISDAY that they would give TCN reasonable time to restore power to the grid before raising the alarm over zero electricity supply.
“Any system can break down. We will give them time to restore supply. If they fail, we will inform our customers that we are getting zero supply from the grid,” he said.
The Group Managing Director of NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru, Tuesday night had ordered an immediate assessment of the damage caused by the fire in order to effect the necessary repairs.
According to a statement Wednesday by the Group General Manager, Public Affairs of NNPC, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, the pipeline which supplies gas to power plants in the South-west, also feeds the West Africa Gas Pipeline System.
“The incineration of the ELPS, which was built in 1989, was suspected to have been caused by a bush fire on January 2, 2018 at Abakila in Ondo State,” the statement said.
NNPC added that firemen from the NNPC were drafted to the scene and were able to contain the fire from the point of leakage on the pipeline, stating, however, that the fire could not be extinguished due to the high pressure on the line.
It said: “To put out the fire, the line would need to be isolated and depressurised, which might lead to the complete shutdown of the pipeline segment for repair works to be carried out.
“The exercise will affect gas supply to customers in Ondo, Ogun and Lagos States, with subsequent shutdown of the following power plants with a combined generating capacity of 1,143MW: Egbin, Lagos, Olorunshogo, PEL Olorunshogo, Ogun, Paras Power Plant, Ogun and Omotosho plant, Ondo State.”
Before the fire incident on Tuesday, the country on December 18, 2017 had attained a new generation peak of 5,222.3 megawatts.
The feat was achieved after two electricity generation milestones of 5,155.9MW and 5,074.70MW were reached on December 8, 2017 and February 2, 2016, respectively.
TCN had explained that the gradual but steady improvement in the nation’s power sector was as a result of the strategy of the administration to improve the power sector.