Murum dam on schedule, expected to begin producing power in Sept

The upstream behind the Murum HEP dam wall from the dam's head of 526m above sea level. Water level here was at 462.26m above sea level. The dam would be able to operate once the water reaches minimum level of 515m above sea level which would take about a year from now.

KUCHING: The 944MW Murum hydroelectric dam in the upper Rajang basin is expected to begin producing power for energy-intensive industries in early September.

Installation of the turbines is currently underway and the wet commissioning of the first unit of the four turbines has been set on Aug 1.

“If the wet commissioning process goes as planned, commercial operations of the dam is expected by Sept 1 or latest by Oct 1,” according to Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB) corporate communication manager Ahadiah Zamhari.

The RM4bil Murum dam, which is located upstream of the 2,400MW Bakun hydroelectric dam, is the first of a series of dams SEB has planned to meet the requirements of Sarawak’s industrialisation and exports to neighbouring countries within the Brunei/Indonesia/Malaysia/Philippines East Asean Growth Area.

Ahadiah said Murum dam reservoir’s water level was rising fast because of the heavy rains since the commencement of the impoundment about four months ago.

“As the reservoir shape is similar to an inverted cone, the water starts to fill up very fast initially because the area is small at the bottom. As it gets higher, the rise of the water level is gradually slower because the reservoir covers a bigger area. We expect the rate of rise of the water will taper off this month due to less rains and bigger area to fill.

“The size of the reservoir created by the dam is about 245 sq km, and currently 58% is already filled with water with the current water level of 509.77m above sea level. The minimium water level for operation is at 515m and maximium level is at 540m,” she told StarBiz.

SEB has earlier anticipated the flooding of the dam to take between 12 and 14 months for the water to reach the minimium level for the turbines to operate. It has targeted 18 to 20 months to get the reservoir filled up.

The Murum dam will have four turbines with a capacity of 236MW each as compared with Bakun dam’s eight turbines. Six turbines of the Bakun dam are in operations, with the final two turbines expected to be commissioned by the middle of this year.

SEB has recently completed the relocation of villagers affected by the dam.

The Murum and Bakun dam, which is owned by the Federal Government, are expected to generate firm outputs of 635MW and 1,771MW respectively (combined 2,406MW) when fully operational. SEB is purchasing the entire power produced by Bakun dam.

Demand for hydro power from new industries has been robust and to-date, SEB has committed some 2,100MW via long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) with energy-intensive industries in Samalaju Industrial Park, Bintulu. The latest PPA signed last month was with Malaysian Phosphate Addictives (Sarawak) Sdn Bhd for the supply of 150MW to its RM1.04bil phosphorous plant project.

Other major consumers of Bakun and Murum power are Press Metal Bhd (700MW for its aluminium smelters in Samalaju and Mukah), OM Materials (Sarawak) Sdn Bhd (500MW), Asia Minerals Ltd (270MW) and Tokuyama Corp (140MW).

OM Materials, an 80:20 joint venture between Australian-listed OM Holdings Ltd and Cahya Mata Sarawak Bhd, expects to commission phase I of its US$592mil ferro alloy smelting plant in Samalaju in the April-June quarter (2014). Phase I has installed capacty of 308,000 tonnes per annum of ferrosilicon alloys.

State-owned SEB has also inked a PPA with Indonesian power company PT PLN (Persero) to export 230MW to west Kalimantan from Jan 1, 2015.

On SEB’s proposed development of the 1,000MW Baram dam in northern Sarawak, Ahadiah said the Sarawak government had decided to continue with the project’s site investigation, social enviromental impact assessment (SEIA) study and resettlement action plan.

“We are planning to resume the remainder of the soil investigation works at sites which was halted due to disruption from a small group of protesters led by a handful of activists affliliated to foreign NGOs (non-governmental organisations) with veiled political agenda.

“The SEIA study in in the final stage and its report is near completion,” she added.

Ahadiah said SEB would need to get feedbacks from stakeholders and approvals from the authorities before going ahead with the proposed dam construction.

SEB has plans to export electricity to Brunei and Sabah once the Baran dam was built.

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