August 7, 2015

Journey Towards Palatana Dream Power Project- Tusar

Journey towards PALATANA dream Power Project by ONGC Workers’ Union

Tusar Datta Majumdar
General Secretary
ONGC Workers’ Union

“Gas flows Tripura grows” the very appropriate slogan of ONGC Tripura Asset is the driving force for the corporation to utilize natural gas for development of Tripura vis-à-vis revenue earning. We the ONGC Workers’ Union has always been propagating that Tripura is rich in natural gas and we have a huge reservoir for exploitation. But the same is being constrained due to lack of buyers in Tripura. Thus our demand has always been gas-based Industries in Tripura. The Union organized street corner meets, press conferences, met with Central & State Ministers advocating the same. Ultimately some developments commenced during 1995-96. Tripura State Government organized few seminars involving PSUs, Banks and entrepreneurs-both local and outsiders on setting-up of gas based Industries in Tripura. Earlier, during 1985-86, Tripura State Govt. under the leadership of late Nripen Chakraborty (the then Chief Minister), along with ONGC tried to establish some gas based industries like Baramura Power Project, CNG Station at Gabardi, gas based brick kiln in Rokhia, domestic gas supply and lastly Ramchandranager NEEPCO 84MW Power Project. At that time State Govt. was positive on ONGC’s proposal that gas from Tripura would be pipe lined to West Bengal. The Union objected to this proposal, as our view was that local gas should first be utilized locally for massive industrialization and
then excess gas may be transported to main land. By 1996-97 ONGC’s 50% production potential was being utilized in Ramchandranagar, Rokhia and Baramura Power Projects. We were alarmed that if the situation continues like that, then ONGC’s operation in Tripura would be in jeopardy as our management was of the view that investment in Tripura was not fruitful due to buyer shortage.

We the Union again started to campaign for gas-based industries in Tripura. Different political parties also began to demand for gas-based industries and deep drilling in Tripura State. Ultimately Central Govt. decided to establish Monerchak Power Plant under NEEPCO and State Govt. also started enhancement of production capacity by commissioning additional gas based turbines. This is the story before 2001.

One very fine morning of June 1st 2001 we were in a meeting under the chairmanship of the then Director (Personal) Shri Jauhari Lal in SCOPE Complex New Delhi on R&P issues. At around 11am the newly appointed Chairman & Managing Director (CMD) Sri Subir Raha came to the meeting hall for introduction. We introduced ourselves and pointed out few pressing issues for immediate consideration. The Union Secretaries of various Units pointed out curb on massive corruption plaguing ONGC in addition to that I categorically
appraising him about our production capabilities, gas reserves, exploitation
profile and revenue earnings at Tripura Asset and sought his help for
diversification of our activities like Refinery and power plant in Tripura

During lunchtime Director (P) and other senior officials of this meeting highly appreciated our union views on organizational goal and Sri Raha assured for gas based Industries in Tripura. He also sought Union’s help to convince the State Govt. for some concession. After return to Agartala we immediately sought appointment with Finance Minister Sri Badal Chowdhury, Govt. of Tripura and also appraised the matter to our President, Mr. Khagen Das, Hon’ble Member of Parliament (LS). Finance Minister heard the matter and assured full cooperation. We appraised the matter to our then Asset Manager Sri M.D Joshi and also to the CMD Sri Subir Raha saheb.

On 12/07/2001 CMD sent ED (Marketing) to study the feasibility of gas-based industry in Tripura. The Union office bearers met with ED (Marketing) and presented before him prospect of setting-up gas-based Middle Distillate project, Kerosene extraction from condensate oil and NEEPCO’s 500MW Monerchawk power project. We also requested him to set up a mega power project by ONGC itself in Tripura. After ED’s visit and hint for own power project we continuously advocated in all meetings with management and outsider, particularly Central Ministers and State Ministers for our power project. Shri Raha also started inquiring about viability of own power project in Tripura. On 25/02/2002 the then Central PNG State Minister Shri Santosh Gangowar visited ONGC Tripura and we deliberated for our own gas based mega power project. Satisfied with our pleading, he assured for necessary help. He also advised the then Director (Onshore) Sri R.C. Gour to examine the case with priority in presence of the then Industry Minister Govt. of Tripura Sri Pabitra Kar at Agartala Dome GCS.

In the mean time ONGC started its activities in diversified field like acquisition of MRPL, LNG business etc. Regarding gas based Industries Tripura state Govt. discussed with ILFS and advised them to have a dialogue with ONGC centrally. ONGC & ILFS shake hand and came to State Govt. with their proposal with techno economic viabilities. On 5th December 2004, CMD Shri Raha planned a 1-day visit to Tripura Asset in connection with PURA (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Area) activities. In connection with CITU Central Working Committee Meeting on 4th & 5th December 2004 at Agartala, Com. Late Dipankar Mukherjee Ex-MP(RS), Com. Tapan Sen, presant CITU General Secretary and Com Swadesh DevRoye were at Agartala. We the Union leadership met with them and discussed the matter of Mega power project in Tripura. On 4th evening the union leaders along with central CITU leaders met with Chief Minister, Finance Minister & others. We tried to convince the state authorities for the Mega power plant in addition to NEEPCO’s 500MW plant. Ultimately we convinced the state authorities and arranged an appointment of our CMD with Chief Minister. Next day morning we telephonically communicated about the development to CMD who was at Kolkata and CMD desired to meet us immediately on his arrival at Agartala. He cancelled his visit to Belonia for PURA and met us. The Union leaders and Com. Swadesh DevRoye met with CMD and appraised him personally the developments. He appreciated our efforts. At evening hours CMD met with the Chief Minister and had a dialogue for an hour. After his return he met with the senior executives of our Asset and advised them to jump on ONGC’s own mega power project. He also advised the Asset authority to identify the probable location for power project and roads for transportation of heavy turbines.

Accordingly 3 executives visited National Highway 44 up to Karimganj and also visited Bangladesh up to Chittagang Port.

They submitted their report within 15 days and 5 probable locations were also identified simultaneously. Whole Tripura Asset was upbeat on these activities. Senior Executives were charged heavily on our own power project and initiative of CMD.

On 22/11/2004 a high level committee consisting of Mr. T.N Misra , Mr. R.K Madan Advisor to ONGC CMD, Mr. Biplab Guha GGM-JV Group and Mr. P.K Ghosh, CMSG from New Delhi along with ILFS and BHEL senior executives came to Agartala for location identification and other allied works. They had a meeting with Asset authorities and our Union. We suggested Palatana for its easy communication and water source from Gumati River for combined cycle power project. ILFS and BHEL shared their views and ultimately it was decided that Frame – 9 eco friendly turbine 2 nos (500MW cap) will be installed and cost of project will be Rs. 3.25 cores/MW. But we were of the opinion that instead of 2 nos. 500 MW turbines it may be 5nos. 200 MW turbines for easy transportation, easy maintenance and breakdown reason. ONGC Tripura Asset identified few probable locations viz. Tepania, Monarchak, Dewan Bazar, Palatana and Belonia around 35 to 80KM from Agartala. Ultimately Palatana was selected. Our Union advocated seriously for Palatana as it is nearer to our major gas field like Sundalbari, Tichna and Agartala Dome and Tripura’s largest River Gumati flow adjoining the site.

A company was formed with partnership of ONGC, ILFS and State Govt. and named as OTPC (ONGC Tripura Power Company). OTPC also set up an office in ONGC Tripura Asset.

Ultimately the date for its inauguration was announced. Site was Palatana. Land was also acquired. Many matured Sal tree had to be cut down. 5 elephants were engaged to remove the roots and plant body to prepare the land for inauguration and public meeting. Weather condition was bad from 3rd week of November. Three General Manager level executives of ONGC including others involved themselves in 24 hours basis for site preparation. Our union leadership and other members also visited repeatedly Palatana site to motivate others. The dream date for laying down foundation stone by our Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh was fixed on 29/11/2005.

Ultimately on 27th November, Shri Raha landed in Agartala to supervise the preparation, but due to bad weather condition the preparation could not get its momentum. But on 28th November site was handed over to NSG party. On 28th intense campaigning was carried out by the Union and others for Prime Minister’s visit and foundation stone laying ceremony. On 29th, around 40000 people of nearby area came to the inauguration place and observed the ceremony. Prime Minister, Chief Minister, our CMD and board of Directors were very happy visualizing the gathering and function as envisaged by our CMD.

OTPC board conducted their board meetings in regular phase and floated the tender during 2007. Alstom and GE submitted their quotation for turbine. After several techno economic discussion the mega power project shaped for 726 MW Combine cycle plant and GE got the tender. ABC (I) ltd, was selected for transportation of turbines weighing about 300MT each.

Problem started on transportation of turbines. Two Generators weigh about 300MT each and many materials weighing about 80 to 100MT individually. Probable transportation routes via Karimganj river port and NH-44 and Bangladesh Raghna border, which is about 200 KM from Palatana site, were considered. But both the routes are tough and beyond transportation. There is 18-hair pin band, more than 40 weak bridges and more over NH-44 is not able to carry load of even 70 Ton capacity at that time. Bangladesh Govt. permitted for transit facility through their Sherpur river port, which is 100KM inside Bangladesh from Raghna border, Dharmanagar. Total distance from Sherpur to Palatana site through NH-44 is around 320KM through hairpin band and weak bridges. Another route from Karimganj river port to Palatana project site is around 335 KM through NH-44. We the Union collected a satellite map and prepared a route Map through Bangladesh and also through Karimganj up to Palatana Site. If one goes through the map, road distance and condition, the preferred route would be via Bangladesh Asuganj river port. We from Union side wrote letters to Sri Pranab Mukherjee, earlier Central Foreign Minister, Chief Minister, Our Union President (MP) and our CMD and Director HR along with Satellite Map and route distance and problems to transport such heavy loads to Palatana project site and sought their help to peruse the Bangladesh Govt. to allow for transportation. During 2010-11 different authority including Central Govt. and State Govt. highlighted the matter to Bangladesh Govt., but Bangladesh Govt. was not responsive. In the mean time Central Govt. sanctioned around Rs. 80 cores to strengthen the NH-44 from Karimgang to Agartala as interim measure for transportation of the turbines and others heavy loads. Strengthening work, widening work of roads is going on. During last visit of Bangladsh Prime Minister in New Delhi an accord has been signed for utilization of Asugang and Mangla river port for transportation of materials to NE states particularly Tripura. This accord will certainly change the socio-economic condition of NE Region. As per agreement the Asuganj port is to be strengthened by India Govt. and the road too up to Platana. Target date for 1st turbine operation has been scheduled on June 2012 and we were optimistic that within 3rd quarter 2012, our dream would be turning to reality. But lot of hurdles arisen out during transportation of heavy loads and technical faults also including ROU problem during laying of pipe line. Overcoming all the hurdles now the plant is almost ready for commercial generation from 1st Turbine. Ultimately on 21st June, 2013 our President hon’ble Sri Pranab Mukherjee will dedicate the 726 MW combined cycle gas based power plant to the nation. Once it is materialized then our Tripura Asset would become the most profitable one after Mumbai high Asset. We the ONGC Workers’ Union is also eagerly waiting to supply our capped gas to Monerchawk NEEPCO 104 MW power plant at the earliest by overcoming recent ROU ( Right of Work ) problem at Sonamura. It may give us most satisfaction if our earlier CMD late Sri Subir Raha would be present with us during dedication of this dream power plant to the nation though his wife & daughter invited to join the program. ONGC Workers’ Union and the people of Tripura will always remember late Raha Saheb’s and our earlier acting CMD as well as Ex-Director On shore Sri Hazarika Saheb’s contribution on this power plant. Now we the employees of ONGC Tripura Asset waiting for proposed Fertilizer plant at North Tripura and the employees of ONGC geared up for further establishment of more hydrocarbon discovery in North Tripura as per plan of ONGC corporate authorities.

Dreams are indeed turning to reality………


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