Rain speeds up Murum dam impoundment, water level months ahead of schedule

The upstream behind the Murum HEP dam. Water level here was at 462.26m. It would be able to operate at a minimum level of 515m which would take about a year to reach.

KUCHING: Good rainfall has sped up the impoundment of the 944MW Murum dam in interior Sarawak, with the water level at the dam reservoir reaching its minimum operating level of 515m above sea level.

The level, which was achieved last week, is months ahead of schedule as dam owner Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB) had anticipated the flooding to take between 12 and 14 months (from September last year when the impoundment commenced) for the water to reach the 515m level.

SEB vice-president for hydro Polycarp Wong said reaching the 515m level was a key milestone in the impoundment.

“This is the level where, theoretically, there is sufficient water volume to begin operation of the dam. The SEB team is preparing for testing and commissioning of the turbines (to generate electricity),” he told StarBiz yesterday.

Wong said the first of the four turbines was expected to start producing power in August to September and that the other three turbines would begin commercial operations at staggered intervals of between 45 days and 60 days each.

The RM4bil dam located upstream of the 2,400MW Bakun dam in upper River Basin in central Sarawak is expected to be in full operations in February next year.

When the dam reservoir is fully filled up, the water level will reach 540m.

The Murum dam will supplement the Bakun dam to supply electricity to energy-intensive industries like aluminium, ferro alloy and managese smelting plants at the Samalaju Indusrial Park, Bintulu within the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy.

Bakun and Murum dams are expected to generate firm outputs of 1,771MW and 635MW respectively.

SEB, which has already committed some 2,100MW to industries, including 230MW in exports to West Kalimantan, Indonesia, from next year, is currently in negotiations with several more investors on power supply term sheets.

If sealed, it is understood that these new investors would require another 700MW to power their manufacturing plants planned for Samalaju.

After Murum, SEB is expected to go ahead with the development of a 600MW coal-fired power plant in Mukah and two other major dam projects in Baleh and Baram, northern Sarawak.

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