Bakun at 50% capacity producing 900MW

KUCHING: The 2,400MW Bakun hydroelectric dam is currently operating at slightly more than 50% of its optimum generating capacity even though all its eight turbines have been commissioned.

Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd managing director Zulkifle Osman said the Bakun dam was now producing an average of 900MW as that was the current requirement of Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB), the sole buyer of Bakun power.

“The eighth turbine was commissioned last month. But only four to six turbines are running in accordance with the power requirement of SEB,” he told StarBiz yesterday.

Sarawak Hidro, which is owned by the Federal Government, is the developer of Bakun dam, which has a firm supply of 1,771MW.

SEB has committed the entire power output from Bakun to several energy-intensive industries in Samalaju Industrial Park in Bintulu.

However, not all these industries have commissioned their manufacturing plants.

Companies which are consuming Bakun power now are Press Metal Bhd, which owns and operates aluminium smelting plants in Samalaju and Mukah and Tokuyama Corp, the owner of a polycrystalline silicon plant in Samalaju.

OM Materials (Sarawak) Sdn Bhd - an 80:20 joint venture between Australian-listed OM Holdings Ltd and Cahya Mata Sarawak Bhd (CMS) - is expected to start commercial operation of its US$592mil (RM1.9bil) ferroalloy and managanese smelting plant (phase I) in the current quarter. OM Sarawak has signed a 20-year agreement with SEB for the supply of 500MW to power its plant.

Pertama Ferroalloy Sdn Bhd is expected to be the next to commission its manganese smelting plant in Samalaju. The company will consume 270MW of Bakun power. Sakura Ferroalloys Sdn Bhd - a tripartite joint venture of Assmang Ltd of South Africa, Japan’s Sumitomo Corp and Taiwan’s China Steel Corp- is also building a manganese smelter which is targeted for production in October 2015.

The US$328mil (RM1.04bil) smelter is expected to consume 75MW to 80MW of electricity.

Zulkifle said Bakun dam’s spillway gates were temporary closed yesterday until further notice - the first closure since the dam was operational - as the water level at its reservoir had dropped due to the prolonged dry weather. The current water level is at 214 metres above sea level. “The low water level is not affecting power generation,” he assured, adding that the minimium level for the generation sets to operate was 195 metres.

Bakun is a 250 metre-high concrete faced rockfill dam located about 35km upstream of Belaga town in Kapit division in central Sarawak.

Sarawak River Board said the Bakun dam spillway gates were closed due to the low reservoir level which had dropped below 215 metres.

“During the temporary closure, the river level downstream is expected to be low, and as such might affect the navigation especially between Bakun and Belaga.

“All parties concerned at downstream of Bakun dam, the general public, shipping communities and river users are advised to give their full cooperation and take safe precautionary measures while navigating/using this river to avoid any untoward incident,” it added in newspaper advertisements.

According to Zulkifle, small boats, like long boats, could still operate along the river between Bakun and Belaga.

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