Engineer Abdullahi Kassim is the Executive Director, Generation, Niger Delta Power Holding Company Limited (NDPHCL). He was recently conferred with a fellow of the Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE). In this interview, he sheds light on the prospects and challenges of Nigeria’s power sector and the way forward. Excerpts:
You have been conferred with the fellowship of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, how do you feel?
I feel so excited and I give thanks to Allah for giving me the opportunity to be part of the society and also to be part of the fellow membership of the Nigerian Society of Engineers which is one of the greatest achievements of every engineer who is practicing engineering in Nigeria.
There are problems affecting the power sector, what exactly are these challenges?
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As it is, the major challenge, if I talk about the Thermal generation plants which constitute about 70 to 80 percent of the available generation in Nigeria, the biggest challenge in the operations of the Thermal plants is the availability of natural gas which serves as the fuel for the operations of the power stations. So, the gas availability of course has to do with infrastructure investment in the gas sector or gas to power and also the availability of the gas itself, the gas molecule.
So, these are the main key challenges that are affecting the operations of those power plants which has seriously constrained some of the available capacities that we have seen across the country, because today if we look at the available capacity in terms of generation is in the range of about 10,000MW, but what we are able to actualise or to put on the grid is normally less than 5000MW.
A lot of the constraints of this available capacity are due to the natural gas in the operations of the Thermal plants. Then, another key issue is also the constraints of the dispatch, which is the evacuation of the power. The transmission network in some parts of Nigeria is constrained. We have seen a lot of power stations that have the capacity to dispatch, but because of the constraints on the transmission network, they are not able to do so. So, if we narrow down the major key issue, or the major factor affecting the availability of power to Nigerians would be the availability of gas and the transmission constraints.
Nigeria is implementing a gas master plan aimed at boosting energy availability to drive development, how do you see this for power generation?
Yes, the gas masterplan and also the AKK project which is the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano gas pipeline is going to be significant game changers in the power sector itself because those are huge infrastructure investments that the government is trying to put in place to ensure that gas is taken to locations where that we don’t have much of its availability. But another challenge to that is that it is not only infrastructure itself but also the challenge of availability of the gas which is the gas molecules that will be transported through these pipelines. So, yes it’s going to improve or it’s going to create some avenues to allow some power stations to operate, once these infrastructures are in place., but also the Gas Generation Companies, the GasCos also have to improve or invest more into the facilities to be able to generate more gas that can be transported to these infrastructures like the AKK. So, the government has through some interventions from the CBN made some funds available for even the first generation companies to be able to access the infrastructure.
NDPHC has several power plants, what are their impact on the national grid?
NDPHC has the biggest capacity in terms of available generation. We have an installed capacity of about 4000MW which is the biggest in the country. We have a lot of investments in transmission and distribution infrastructure and even the gas infrastructure. But, as I said, it’s the same issues affecting all the generation companies.
NDPHC has over 90 percent of all these generating plants running on gas, which are Thermal plants. So, the availability of gas is really affecting the operations of these power plants. Today, we have a stranded capacity of over 2000MW, but what we are generating is virtually less than 1000MW in some good cases. But, sometimes it’s even less than 600 to 500MW. This has to do with the availability of gas to operate this stranded capacity from each of the operational power plants that we have in Nigeria.
The biggest challenge especially in the Niger Delta, number one is the availability of gas to generate and run most of the power plants that we have on the western Escravos-Lagos pipeline system. So, alot of the power plants on that axis is affected because the gas is not readily available and in some cases, where the gas is available, the gas pressure is not sufficient to be able to generate optimally and provide electricity to Nigerians.
The government is delivering some Siemens power equipment, is NDPHC benefiting from the project?
The SIEMENS transaction under the Presidential Power Initiative (PPI) is a very good intervention program aimed at improving the country’s power distribution and transmission infrastructure. It is a deal under the Federal Government’s power improvement plan which is also an intervention to improve the power value chain. Yes, the Niger Delta Power Holding Company is not directly part of the SIEMENS transaction, but like I said, power generation in Nigeria is a value chain, so whatever that is happening on the other side of the Value chain, will affect all the other ideas of the value chain. If there are supplies coming into the system through the SIEMENS deal, of course, will benefit the NDPHC and other players in the power industry at large to help improve the power generation in the country.