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Director General of “Yerevan TPP” CJSC: There is no such a Thermal Power Plant in the region yet
10.05.14 12:04
Director General of “Yerevan TPP” CJSC: There is no such a Thermal Power Plant in the region yet

Director General of “Yerevan TPP” CJSC Hovakim Hovhannisyan is on the cover of “De Facto” socio-political magazine’s new issue.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    “There is no other choice. We should make commitment and devote our energies; otherwise we are going to fail the work entirely”

Hovakim Hovhannisyan

Director General

“YerevanTPP” CJSC

Yerevan Thermal Power Plant, as such, was launched in 1961, in the same year its first unit was commissioned, then in sequence,      till 1967, when its last power unit (No. 7) was commissioned making its total installed capacity 610 MW.

The power plant delivered electricity to Armenia’s Power System with 610 MW capacity and had a capability to generate thermal energy with 630 Gcal/h capacity, consumers of which used to be “Nairit”, factories of tires, chemicals, vitamins and others at that time. In addition, it provided the communities of Shengavit and Erebouni with heating and hot water. Generation of thermal energy by Yerevan TPP was not correlated with its generation of electric power, therefore irrespective of the availability of consumers for thermal energy, Yerevan TPP was able to generate electricity in its full capacity.

Yerevan TPP was the first plant constructed in Armenia’s power system. Since commissioning of its first unit it has been in operation for about 50 years and generated electricity in full power.

In 2005 by RA Government decree the construction of a new power plant was launched; an agreement between the RA Government and Japan Bank for International Cooperation was signed on 29 March, based on which the Japanese party extended a loan amounted to $241 million, as an ODA (official development assistance) loan to the Armenian party for the construction of a power plant with innovative technologies.


As to how activities at the new power plant are being carried out, what programs do they have for the future, is tried to make clear in the interview held with Hovakim Hovhannisyan, Director General of “Yerevan TPP” CJSC.

- Mr. Hovhannisyan, how and why it was decided to construct a new power plant instead of upgrading the old power units?

- Generally the life times, maintenance duration or performance specifications of thermal power plants are about 30 years. This period is, of course, possible to extend by means of repairs and large investments, which we have done in due time, however fundamentally this is not the right way to go. As Yerevan TPP was operating based on the technology of 60’s, its efficiency, as well as costs related to the specific fuel consumption for generation of each kWh of electricity, and consequently tariff levels were very unfavorable, so rehabilitation of the 50 year-old power plant would not be so effective. Therefore we initiated the construction project of a new power plant in 2005 in accordance with RA Government decree; an agreement between the RA Government and Japan Bank for International Cooperation was signed on 29 March, based on which the Japanese party extended a loan amounted to $241 million, as an ODA (official development assistance) loan to the Armenian party for construction of a power plant with innovative technologies. Annual interest rate of the loan was 0.75 % with the repayment period of 40 years and the grace period of 10 years. The purpose of providing those terms was to enable the power plant to operate after the construction in order to recover its financial position, acquire strong revenue, and only thereafter pay off the debt. Of course, these terms were very beneficial for Armenian party, so upon signing the agreement international bids were announced and in 2008 we had already commenced the construction of the new power unit at a distance of only 300m from the old power plant, which is an entirely different “world”. From eight options that were considered, our specialists selected the best and most feasible one for our country. It is a combined cycle co-generation power plant based on state-of-the-art gas turbine (GT) technology. While natural gas at old power plants is fired within the boilers, which heats the water, turning it into steam, then enters into the turbine to produce electricity, after which the cycle is closed, in this case the natural gas is fired directly inside of gas turbine, i.e. supplementary firing is not provided anymore. Pressure and temperature drops as a result of gas firing within the gas turbine are used to get rotation and consequently the gas turbine produces electric power. The gas turbine (GT13E2) which we have applied here is the best in the world in its class, manufactured by Alstom, a trans-european company, the capacity of which is 180 MW with large number of operating hours worldwide. Nevertheless, we have not decided in favor of single cycle power plant, but we have ordered for such a design, when the combustion products of the exhaust gases leaving the gas turbine will also be utilized by entering into a so called heat recovery steam generator, while natural gas will not be fired, just flue gases from the gas turbine will enter into that steam generator and heat the water making it a steam, that is to say, recovery (reutilization) of a heat will take place, as well as an additional quantity of electricity will be produced in that steam turbine, i.e. the gas turbine shall generate 180 MW, and the steam turbine - 63 MW, making the total installed electrical capacity as 243 MW, while taking into account, that the power plant can produce thermal energy in case there are heat consumers, then total installed capacity shall become 271 MW.

- All equipment and machinery required for construction of the new power plant were procured from various countries, which is a rather complicated and crucial process. Wasn’t it difficult to stand against such a great challenge?

- Yes, all equipment required for construction of the power plant was imported from various countries. It was a tremendous technology, including gas turbine, GT generator, and power transformers. Transportation of this equipment toArmeniainvolved great risks, it seemed even impossible. Transportation by railway was dangerous, as there was no insurance, besides this railway was not some of the best. We had to import that equipment by plane. We leased the world’s largest and only one plane AN-225 “Mria”, which was left as a legacy ofUSSRas well. At Frankfurt airport the plane took aboard the load delivered fromMannheimon railway, with a refueling stop-over inTurkey, eventually successfully landed on “Zvartnots” airport. It was the biggest-ever project, which was captured on video and is shown on Discovery Channel until now as an exceptional event.

- In which capacity has the new power plant been operating since its commissioning and how much electricity it generated each year?

- The new power plant was commissioned on 21 April, 2010. In 2011 the power plant continuously operated for 8468 hours, which means that the operation of the power plant was interrupted just once in that year with duration of 140 hours to carry out preventive maintenance, so it produced 1685.7 million kW/h of electricity. This is a very high performance rating. In 2012 it operated 8246 hours generating 1641.87 million kW/h of electricity, and in 2013 - 7059 hours producing 1405.75 million kW/h. As of 28 March, 2014 the plant has operated 2088 hours and generated 427.42 million kW/h of electricity. There is no other power plant in the region to operate with such a high performance rate. Construction of a similar power plant with the same company (Alstom) was initiated fairly recently inRussian Federation.

- Up-to-date technology which requires new comprehensive approach. How do you resolve the problem of personnel and experts, Mr. Hovhannisyan?

- If number of employees working in the old power plant was 986 with everything being done manually, the new power unit operates with a completely automated system. Principally a demand for human resources in the process of operation of the unit has been brought to the minimum, however based on safety considerations our staff consists of 71 employees. Power plant can operate controlled merely by one instruction from the dispatch center, as well as equipment of automatic control system of Honneywell (USA) is installed, while we are aware that all control systems used in American aeronautics (including those for space programs) are manufactured by just Honneywell. Actually we deal with up-to-the-minute technology and equipment, which require proper knowledge, skills and adequate level of qualification. This is new level of engineering, a new profession in our reality. Our specialists have passed appropriate trainings under the project. Mandatory requirement for employment is fundamental base of occupational knowledge and good command of English language: If someone professionally satisfies our criteria, however has some problems with his/her English, then our company will dispatch him/her to special courses, as entire technical publication, information regarding equipment are in English and misinterpretation or misunderstanding of a single word can result in irreversible consequences. We have a specific training program for personnel, and basically recruit young graduates specialized in thermal power plants and chemistry from Armenian State Technical University, and sometimes graduates from Yerevan State University. A young employee is attached by a relevant order to an experienced expert, who shall be liable for duly transferring his/her knowledge, experience and skills to that young graduate. There is a compulsory system of examinations as well; once in a year all those graduates (employees) shall take an exam with a special committee. The exam shall include a theory part, operation manuals, as well as a part testing knowledge of English and computer programs. If an employee successfully passes the exam, he/she gets some monthly reward (bonus) along with the salary by a relevant order, while upon unsatisfactory results he/she is deprived of a bonus, meantime letting him/her some tome for retaking the exam. During the course of the project implementation we dispatched 51 employees to be trained by relevant foreign companies, including toSwitzerland by manufacturing company Alstom (Switzerland) in respect of gas turbines,South Korea by a company for the part of boiler, andJapan by a company in respect of steam turbine. After those trainings some specialists returned with a really satisfactory results and new knowledge base, while some others who may have thought that it was a tourist trip, shortly after coming back are no more with us. There is no other way; such persons have no place in such a serious enterprise with a strategic function. After obtaining the occupational knowledge the experts will be highly wanted in foreign countries.

- Summarizing the results, what do you think, what have given the new power unit of Yerevan TPP to the power system and our country on the whole?

- For comparison, I have to tell that the power plants of the class similar to the plant of “Yerevan TPP” CJSC being commissioned in the former Soviet Union, and not only there, but even in European countries and USA had maximum of 30% efficiency, in other words, specific reference fuel consumption for generation of 1 kW/h electricity was 370-400g, while the efficiency of the new power plant is 51%, it has a fully condensing mode, and in case of consumption of thermal energy as well, the efficiency will reach 71%. The specific reference fuel consumption for generation of 1 kW/h electricity does not exceed 256g. This is a tremendous achievement in respect of fuel economy and tariff efficiency.

- Mr. Hovhannisyan, in September 2013 Minister of Energy stated that one of the old power units of Yerevan TPP is going to be re-commissioned soon, while coal serving as an energy source is to be imported from NKR. At what stage that project is now and what capacity of electricity is it about?

- Currently a project is still in progress through which we plan to re-commission two of our power plant boilers to operate with coal, which is going to be imported from NKR. Large scale of work has already been fulfilled, relevant equipment installed, including coal mills, cutters, separators, conveyors (carriers), and pneumatic conveyors. Combustion process has already been successfully tested with small quantity of coal. We plan to import clean coal in the near future and commission two out of 7 old power units, each of which shall operate at 50 MW capacity.

- Mr. Hovhannisyan, please let us address environmental issues. What is being done to mitigate the impact on the nature and minimize the hazard to the environment?

- We follow adopted international standards of ISO and ASME. If you have seen the waste water basin of the power plant, you would be surprised by cleanness of the water accumulated there. This cleanness can be seen not only with naked eye, but also can be judged by the results of laboratory analysis, performed regularly. We have a special laboratory, where monitoring (supervision) of cleanness of waste waters is carried out automatically. As to discharges (leakages) and emissions into the environment, I have to state that those have rather small volume, and even do not reach levels of permissible international limits. One of the advantages of the new power plant is the special measurement devices installed in the plant, by means of which at every second we receive information regarding emissions, and if it happens so that their level exceed the allowable scale for even one mm, relevant signaling will be activated promptly. For example, emission of nitrogen oxides, which have an impact on the ozone layer, shall not exceed the level of 15 ppm. If the value of this indicator reaches 15.1, signaling devices shall be activated immediately, and in case of its maximum level of 15.8 is reached, the power unit will be immediately blocked for taking preventive measures. The level for this indicator (parameter) in our plant is set to 13-14 ppm. These parameters are controlled (supervised) on international level as well by the Alstom’s relevant center located inBaden.

- Mister Hovhannisyan, most of your life has been dedicated to this occupation and Yerevan TPP. How did you choose this profession?

- (Smiles) I don’t like to talk about me, however, shall tell how I embraced this occupation. My father was a teacher of Armenian language, an honoured specialist, a friend ofShiraz, so even in the back of his mind my father wouldn’t think that his son would choose a completely different professional direction. Yet I didn’t like liberal arts, and preferred engineering sciences. Though he was addressing my choice with a great jealousy, anyway, without hesitation I had made my choice for this very interesting occupation full of new inventions. In 1971 I graduated from Polytechnic Institute with a specialization in thermal power plants. Afterwards I was dispatched to Yerevan TPP and my life was tied with this enterprise (smiles).

In Yerevan TPP I started from the lowest worker job, as in order to fully understand, comprehend the system and gain experience in power engineering, one has to start from working in the lowest workers’ team. As for today, also in the past there were special exams and established guidelines (standards), so only after passing those, one could be promoted in his/her job. Thus I have commenced so. First as Turbine Operator (man-on-foot) on Patrol, Boiler Operator (man-on-foot) on Patrol, then Turbine Operator, Shift Supervisor, Senior Shift Supervisor (of station), after which Head of boiler-and-turbine shop, Plant Chief Engineer, and eventually Plant Director General since 1991. Generally there is an unwritten rule among us that every director has to contribute something new in the power plant within the period of his/her directorship. I assumed responsibilities of Director in such a turning period, as the collapse of theUSSRwas.Armeniagained independence in this period; the country was having tough times, all sectors of economy, including that of energy suffered from regression, so it seemed naive to think about innovations, progress and new launch. Nevertheless we didn’t give up. We managed to support the activity (continue commissioning) of a 30-year-old power plant, furthermore, in 2005 we undertook the realization of the idea regarding construction of a new power unit. Today, as early as 9 years later, we have a TPP operating on a technology, which is unique for the region, and even “dare” to consider the aspects of construction of the second one.

- And how much realistic is the construction of the second power unit?

- Speaking from the perspective of financing and investments it is quite realistic, as we used to be rather responsible and fair partner for Japanese party. We complied with all contractual dates, performed all assigned obligations in good faith, therefore we are a reliable partner for further investments. Thus, concurrently with our project Japan Bank for International Cooperation financed construction of 11 similar thermal power plants inMalaysia,Uzbekistan,Indonesia,Azerbaijan,Australiaand other countries. However, only we met the deadlines, while others disrupted contract schedules; they commenced, yet up to day have not completed the construction works. In our situation there is the other side of this issue; we have to be governed by the practicability and benefit for our country’s internal power system. As to the extent of its necessity and feasibility, it is to be decided by RA Government.

- Does this work allow time for the family, Mister Hovhannisyan?

- No, to be frankly. You may think why, isn’t it a latest technology with automatic operation system? Why it should take so much time? I should say yes, it is advanced equipment and technology, automatic operation, but a completely new world; it’s a field, requiring new professional skills, up to date knowledge, needing continuous and watchful control and coordination, in such a way, that most of my day is spent in Yerevan TPP. There is no other choice. We should make commitment and devote our energies; otherwise we are going to fail the work entirely.

Interviewed by: Tehmina Arzumanyan - Information source

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