By Kenneth Atavti
The Maiduguri Gas Plant initiated under the immediate past administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, and constructed by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPCL) was completed in February 2023 and commenced operation immediately, this newspaper reliably gathered.
The confirmation of the completion and inauguration of the gas plant by top officials of NNPC Limited came against the backdrop of a media report on Sunday, November 5, 2023, that the critical infrastructure to address the problem of power supply disruptions in Maiduguri due to attacks by insurgents, had yet to take off.
The report had claimed that the plant, which was constructed to achieve a stable, uninterrupted power supply that would improve the economy and lives of people in the state had yet to take off.
But a top source familiar with the matter told our correspondent that the NNPC Limited had diligently executed the project starting with the simple cycle phase of 32 megawatts, which was completed and inaugurated in February this year.
The source described the report as a fabrication because it does not reflect the current realities om ground.
The source said, “NNPC has diligently executed this project starting with the simple cycle phase (32MW), which was completed and inaugurated with liquid fuel (AGO) in February 2023 and the power plant successfully operated.”
The source pointed out that, however, operation with diesel fuel which was the secondary fuel for the gas turbine was not sustainable due to high cost of AGO.
“The plant was deliberately shutdown awaiting the regasification facility project to be completed,” the official said, adding that “the regasification facility has now been completed to enable the use of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) as the primary fuel source for the power plant.”
The source continued, “Notably, as NNPC has progressed the project, the Yola Electricity Distribution Company (YEDC) has made commendable efforts to rehabilitate and bolster its infrastructure in preparation for the increased power supply.”
Interestingly, the source added that as of November 2, 2023, the plant, which is ran by the NNPC Ltd in partnership with the China Machinery Engineering Company (CMEC) and General Electric (GE), has dispatched about 12 MegaWatt of power to the Yola Electricity Distribution Company (YEDC) for utilisation on its network.
“The project’s second phase, involving the combined cycle mode, and producing an additional 18MW, is expected to reach completion by end of 2024.
“The ramp-up of electricity production operationally will align with the YEDC’s capacity to absorb the power, ultimately contributing to grid supply.
“Currently YEDC is working on the distribution network that will increase the offtake from 12MW to 32MW.
“It is imperative to recognize that NNPC Limited has collaborated extensively with various government entities and private sector stakeholders to materialize this transformative project. Gratitude is extended to NERC, NBET, TCN, YEDC, NEMSA, System Operators and Market Operators for their unwavering cooperation,”the source added.
The official further said that “Regarding power offtake, the initial interim Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) guiding the project has successfully undergone negotiations with NBET and approval secured for commercial operation of the plant to commence November 2023.”
Recall that Maiduguri and its environs had immensely suffered from persistent power supply disruptions over the past five years, largely due to incessant insurgent attacks on critical infrastructure.
This situation had escalated in 2021, plunging the city into darkness and threatening to reverse the security gains achieved during the Buhari administration when efforts were hugely invested in official actions to combat insurgency.
In response to the dire situation, former President Muhammadu Buhari had issued a directive to the NNPC now NNPC Limited and other relevant agencies to find a sustainable solution.
The NNPC had initially explored different options, including building new transmission lines to provide redundancy to the vulnerable ones that had been frequently targeted.
However, this approach was at that intersection considered suboptimal as the lines would remain susceptible to attacks.
Further recall that an alternative consideration was to harness the abundant solar irradiation in the northeastern region to construct a solar power plant for the city.
Nevertheless, security challenges emerged, as solar power plants required significant space to operate effectively.
For instance, a 50MW solar facility would necessitate 50 to 100 hectares of land, which would place the plant outside the city, thereby making it vulnerable to insurgent and terrorist attacks, precisely the issue Maiduguri Gas Plant project aimed to address.
Findings further revealed that ultimately, the only viable security-focused solution that was a product of broad consensus was the gas-fired power plant situated within the city itself.
According to another official, “This plant now resides at Baga Road within the TCN facility. Due to the expected high cost of gas, it was understood that this plant must run at a combined cycle mode to reduce the gas cost input.
“Furthermore, the design of the power plant is such that it can operate on dual fuel, using LNG as the primary fuel and diesel as the backup.”
The official said that the media report that the Maiduguri Gas Plant had yet to take off was fallacious and outright mischievous. He maintained.