In order to boost electricity supply in the country, the current operator of the nation’s premier Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON), in Ikot Abasi, Akwa Ibom State, UC RUSAL, has affirmed its readiness to inject approximately 360 mega watt annually to the national grid.
However, the Director, Public and Government Relations Department of ALSCON, Tatyana Smirnova, yesterday said that this could only be possible or achieved if the company was connected to the national power grid.
The company noted the huge demand for electricity estimated at 40,000mw, annually in the country, but with only 4,517mw capacity available, saying presently ALSCON has gas –fired power plant with installed capacity of 540mw.
“The power plant is capable of fully satisfying the electricity needs of the smelter company and also to supply excess power to the national grid.
“ALSCON’s power plant is capable of supplying annually approximately 360mw to the national power grid,” she said.
Smirnova who spoke during an interview in Uyo, the state capital, said ALSCON expected the federal government to take necessary steps to address the connection to the national grid.
She regretted that in spite of a monitoring committee set up by the Federal Ministry of Power to address the problems, the May 2013 completion was forwarded to December and still doubted physical grid connection by the period.
“This is because there is no infrastructure available, the 330/132/33kv Ikot Abasi substation, the Ikot Abasi-Ikot Ekpene NIPP line, and other infrastructure are unavailable.
“Besides, the acquisition of the licence for operation needed for connection by ALSCON and PPA are deliberately delayed, although all needed steps and procedures have been accomplished by ALSCON.
“ALSCON’s connection to the national grid is a win-win situation for both the company and the federal government and is a practical demonstration of ALSCON’s support of the government’s power sector road map and reform,” Smirnova added. She equally spoke extensively on other challenges facing the plant to operate including unresolved problem of ensuring an uninterrupted supply of gas to the smelter company.
Equally, the plant spokesperson frowned at the deteriorating global market for aluminium, as well as continued legal uncertainty around the smelter company following the judgment of the Supreme Court on July 6, 2012.
According to her, a key precondition for ALSCON’s successful operation was an uninterrupted supply of natural gas at reasonable prices as it has turned to become the main obstacle to the development of ASLCON since the re-start of production in 2008.
In her words: “ALSCON has suffered six lengthy disruptions in gas supply which resulted in complete stoppage of aluminium production, losses of about $60 million, and long rehabilitation periods.
“On June 21 to 23, the gas pressure in the pipeline reduced to zero level, resulting in more losses of over N11million.
“A possible solution to ALSCON’s gas problem would be the speedy completion of the Esit Eket-Ikot Abasi pipeline by the federal government.”
Smirnova lamented that official motto of ALSCON at its creation which was ‘We turn waste to wealth’ cannot be achieved due to the lack of progress in resolving key issues affecting the plant.
“When RUSAL was considering acquiring its stake in ALSCON, the promised availability of this crucial resource made RUSAL take decision to invest in Nigeria.
“RUSAL invested around USD160 million between 2007 and 2012 in the modernisation and development of the smelter.
“Until the power supply issue is resolved, there will be no chance for ALSCON to resume its primary aluminium production.
“Moreover, further delays in connecting the smelter’s power to the national grid expose the smelter to the risk of existence, as RUSAL actually has depleted all resources in its efforts to subsidise the smelter,” she stressed.
Information from This Day was used in this report.