With only a fortnight's supply of coal left at Guru Hargobind Thermal Power Plant here, an electricity crisis in the state is close. The stock has fallen since a company charged with sending inferior coal to the plant has stopped the supply. The formation of the group of engineers (GOE) for quality control seems to have not gone down well with it.
The GOE checks have saved the state exchequer crores of rupees, the plant authorities have claimed. The coal supply is shut fully since August 6, and the stock is down to 2 lakh metric tons (MT), sufficient only for 14 to 15 days.
The mines supply a different-grade coal (see box) to the Lehra, Ropar and Bathinda plants since the engineers at Lehra pointed out a huge scam in quality manipulation, involving suppliers and some local officials. The Lehra plant gets its 85% coal from Jharkhand-based company PANEM.
Usually, the chemical department examines the quality of coal. However, in March, the plant management assigned its engineers to supervise this testing. Already, the initial results are shocking. After the Lehra group was formed, the authorities have found the quality and quantity of coal supplied to the other plants also had declined from the previous year.
The Bathinda plant took the cue from Lehra and formed a similar group in June 2012 to supervise coal testing. At Ropar, where the plant had no GOE to check quality, no rake was ever reported to be of grade F (lowest quality), though the coal is from the same mines, and goes to the all the plants.
The Lehra engineers have saved the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) crores of rupees. Coal testing results from Bathinda and Lehra are contrary to the conclusion at Guru Gobind Singh Thermal Power Plant, Ropar. "We have received only six rakes against the order for 28," said MR Parhar, chief engineer at the Lehra plant. "I have informed the higher authorities about the coal stock left. The inspection committee has done well." Even a slight shift in grade makes a difference of lakhs of rupees in the value of each rake.
Holding state to ransom
The Lehra engineers' alertness deprived PANEM of crores of rupees. Failing to influence the plant authorities to tow its line, it went into an armtwisting manoeuvre, and stopped supply from August 6. Of the 15 rakes supplied in the past five days, 13 have gone to Ropar, and two to Bathinda.
PANEM has ignored the PSPCL diections to send 50% of the entire coal supply for Punjab to Lehra. Bathinda has 25 days of stock (1.3 lakh MT), Ropar has for 18 (3.7 lakh MT). If the coal supply is not restored, the Lehra plant will have to be shut.
Some employees involved in coal testing at the three plants have worked on years on the same post. The huge difference in quality results raises a doubt why it was not caught before task groups were formed at Lehra and Bathinda. Or is the testing at Ropar influenced and manipulated In spite of HT's repeated attempts, PSPCL chairman KD Chaudhary could not be contacted for comments.
In the year 2005-06, coal from China that Adani supplied to the Ropar and Lehra plants tested inferior at Lehra, and okay at Ropar. On investigation, the Lehra analysis was upheld, and the-then energy controller, Punjab State Electrictiy Board had to suspend its coal import. Later, based on the Punjab vigilance bureau inquiry, it was stopped permanently.