Big variation in the results of coal testing done at Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Plant here and at independent laboratories, has put a question mark over the sampling of coal at the thermal plant.
After the issue of manipulation in coal testing at three thermal plants of Punjab was highlighted in a section of the media in August last year, Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) had streamlined the coal testing process at all the plants, and the test results were more or less similar over the next few months.
According to a senior PSPCL official, due to the steps taken to streamline the coal testing process in a transparent manner, Panem Coal Mines Limited, which supplies coal to thermal plants, allegedly got annoyed as it was deprived of crores of rupees.
Having failed to influence the Lehra Mohabbat thermal plant management to tow its line, the coal company, allegedly as an arm-twisting measure, reduced coal supplies to the plant, he added.
Later, Panem challenged the coal test results of the Rupnagar and Lehra Mohabbat plants and demanded third-party testing.
At the Rupnagar plant, 87 referee samples were sent for third-party testing, and surprisingly, most samples tested were found to be of higher grades than indicated by testing at the plant.
Besides, while the normal sulphur content of Indian (Panem) coal is between 0.5 to 0.6%, sulphur content of the referee samples was found to be between 0.9 and 1%.
However, sources allege that the referee samples were tampered with by Rupnagar plant officials in connivance with Panem officials, and imported coal was mixed with Panem coal samples sent for testing to Central Fuel Research Institutes (CFRI) at Dhanbad and Nagpur, resulting in the variance.
The sources also said that the PSPCL management has asked the chief engineer (thermal design) to investigate the matter.
On the other hand, for the 125 referee samples from the Lehra Mohabbat plant, of which 63 were sent to Dhanbad and 62 to Nagpur, the rest results were found to be almost similar to the initial result of the testing done at the plant, indicating that samples were not tampered with at that plant.
Panem had also reportedly referred the bills to PSPCL for additional payment of Rs. 12 crore in view of the test results, and payment had been released to the firm. A single change of grade costs between `6 lakh to `15 lakh per rake.
The PSPCL has failed to take action against officials allegedly involved in manipulation of coal testing at its thermal plants, sources allege, adding that the power body had formed a committee in September last year to inquire into the divergence in test results, but the committee is yet to give its final report.
As an interim arrangement, some of the officials involved in coal sampling and testing were transferred intra and inter-plant, but no action was taken against the officials involved in manipulation.
Claimed that coal sampling was done properly at the Rupnagar plant, chief engineer HP Singh said Panem had the right to demand third-party coal testing, and the results were binding on the parties concerned.
However, he could not give a satisfactory reply as to why there was so much variance in the results at the Rupnagar plant and independent laboratories, while there was no such variance at the Lehra Mohabbat plant.
Number of samples 87
Rupnagar Thermal Plant
D - 20
E - 66
F - 1
CFRIs, Dhanbad and Nagpur
A - 7
B - 24
C - 30
D - 19
E - 7