In the next in a series of interviews with prominent civil engineers, SHUBHANGI BIDWE speaks to Pankaj A Sapate, Deputy Chief Engineer (Project), Maharastra State Power Generation Company (Mahagenco).
His professional graph reflects his sheer commitment. Beginning his career with small power plants at Ballarpur Industries, PA Sapate has over 20 years of experience in the industry. After a seven-year engagement with Larsen & Toubro (L&T) where he was involved in the construction and commissioning of a 46-MW captive power plant at Awarpur, he joined Mahagenco as an executive engineer (O&M) in 2003. Since then, he's been promoted to Deputy Chief Engineer and is responsible for the overall project execution at site for all packages. A mechanical engineer from Nagpur University alongwith an MBA in finance, he has received several honours from the state. He shares his journey, achievements and views on the industry in conversation with CW.
Thirst for power
Around 20 years ago, the power sector faced an acute gap between demand and supply. To counter this, the government allowed small and medium-scale industries to set up their own captive generation plants (CPG). Although this boosted the CGP industry, IPP (Independent Power Plant) development was still below average. Also, the government had fewer cash inflows and insufficient funds, making captive power generation for smooth functioning of industrial projects a necessity. Many of our projects are located in the interior regions of Maharashtra that have a rainforest and a tiger resort, making environment clearances difficult. Additionally, these face stiff opposition from locals who fear an increase in pollution levels. However, adequate government support has encouraged us to initiate most of our 55 projects here.
Towards techno perfection
The adoption of new and advanced technologies in power plants not only reduces manpower requirement but makes them eco-friendly. A case in point is the Khoradi thermal power station in Nagpur, which is the first in the region to use wastewater to meet the needs of its 1,980-MW expansion project. This ensures allocation of fresh water for agricultural purposes.
We are also credited with the implementation of a high setting concentration slurry disposal system for the first time in India. This system uses laser waterway for the disposal of ice. It is designed for zero discharge and will be connected with the central data station enabling both the public and NTCP to monitor nearby areas. We are also including a green harvesting system in our project for the first time. This will collect rainfall in a pond in the catchment area with the surface water used for fuel and power generation. Additionally, we have also introduced a dust separation system. In Chandrapur, we implemented a 500 MW, state-of-the-art Heterojunction Bipolar Transistor (HBT) that monitors fuel at high temperatures. On that basis, we can have fine calibration of the air dampers. Complete coal combustion occurs inside the furnace, avoiding fuel loss and increasing boiler efficiency. We cannot rely on the import of coal. The only solution is to reopen mines closed owing to non-commercial operations. Although this may not sound viable, we can secure financial assistance from foreign companies to execute this.
Energy boost Shortage of thermal energy demands non-conventional sources of energy such as natural waste, clean fuel technologies and solar power. We should emphasise on natural power generation and also increase our nuclear power capacity. Although solar power is beneficial for power projects, this technology can be quite expensive and needs sufficient support at the policy level.
Project execution in areas such as Nagpur is replete with challenges including shortage of skilled labour and extreme weather conditions.
The temperature hovers around 50° C in summer and the area receives heavy rainfall for around 30 days during the monsoons. Also, the black soil in these areas necessitates deeper penetration into the ground requiring use of sophisticated equipment and technologies. Acquiring land is becoming extremely difficult day by day. Although the government has lakhs of acres, cannot be allotted for development purposes as most of it falls under forest land. A good option to acquire land is through the private market the way Adani has done. Although we hire locals for the development of our projects, this is not always viable as projects in hilly areas demand specialised skills, which they lack. These projects also face logistic challenges as transporting heavy machines and components here is hugely challenging. Also, the non-availability of vendors required for fabricating, erecting and commissioning complicates matters.
Creating future leaders
We provide 52-week induction training for engineers, three month training for the artisans and ITI, and management training to executives and higher levels. We have 500 MW and 210 MW simulators at our Koradi centre that enable us to practice actual operations. We also have sub centres in Koradi and Nashik where we train engineers and artisans in batches. I represented Mahagenco as part of an Indian delegation to Europe and Germany in 2009. The plant operating conditions in Germany are very different from those in India as the coal available there contains 5-7 per cent ash and frequent change in coal mills is not needed. Technologically, however we are onpar with our German counterparts.
Pankaj A Sapate
• BE (Mechanical), MBA (Finance) from Nagpur University, Nagpur (1993)
• Certificate of Proficiency of the First Class as an Engineer (First Class Boiler Proficiency Engineer) by Government of Maharashtra (2000)
• Certified Energy Auditor by Bureau of Energy Efficiency, Government of India (2006)
• 1993- 1995: Executive (Power House), Ballarpur Industries Ltd
• 1995-2003: Middle Management (M-2)/ (M-3), Larsen & Toubro
• 2003-2009: Executive Engineer (O&M), Chandrapur Super Thermal Power Station, Maharashtra State Power Generation Co
• 2009-2010: Superintendent Engineer, Koradi Thermal Power Station, Mahagenco
• 2010 to date: Deputy Chief Engineer (Project), Koradi Expansion Project, Mahagenco
• Conferred with the honour of 'Participant Representative' for the Management
• Development Programme by Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration, Pune.
• For its initiatives in energy conservation, Chandrapur Super Thermal Power Station was selected for 'State Level Award for Excellence in Energy Conservation & Management' by MEDA, Maharashtra Government.
Project: 3 × 660 MW Koradi Expansion Project
Cost: Rs 11,880 crore
Client: Maharashtra State Power Generation Co Ltd
Background: Realising the gap between the demand and supply scenario in the energy sector of Maharashtra, this 3 × 660 MW super critical power plant was set up by Maharashtra State Power Generation Co.
Unique features: These include the use of Nagpur municipal wastewater for the condenser cooling system for which MSPGCL is setting up a 130-mld water reuse project for wastewater treatment.
Challenges: The common notion towards such projects are that they are a major cause of all problems including environmental issues. In an attempt to dispel these notions, we committed around Rs 20 crore towards CSR activities. Roads, libraries, etc were created for the villages. Secondly the technical expertise required for this type of project is not available in India. So we had to hire locals and train them accordingly. Also, the technology selection had to match government policies.
Project : 2 × 23 MW ACW-CPP Larsen & Toubro Ltd
Cost: Rs 200 crore Client: Larsen & Toubro Ltd
Background: Owing to an increase in input energy prices, captive power generation is more economical; hence this plant was set up by Larsen & Toubro (L&T).
Unique features: It introduced environment-friendly fluidised bed combustion technology, which ensures combustion of low CV coal in an eco-friendly manner. Challenges: As the plant is located in a remote area, we had to start from scratch. We tapped local agencies to get an idea about the local infrastructural problems. Machinery and manpower for the project was arranged by L&T and we mainly hired locals to work on the project. As mostly welding work was done here, we had to first test the welding skills of the locals before imparting them with the necessary skills.
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