Chia Ti Lik’s Blog

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Questions on Senoko’s Power Failure

Dear All

The timing for this is a bit off. Food poisoning, wisdom tooth extraction, gastric flu, Christmas celebrations, new year celebrations, friend’s birthday celebrations and now we have a not so fresh topic for discussion.However, from my understanding no one seems to have really discussed this (correct me if i am wrong) and since all of us use electricity… so …. The topic remains relevant.

Attached below is my article on the issue. Apologies for only posting now.


Ti Lik

P.S. As at 11th January 2007 Noontime, letter was sent to the Straits Times Forum Page again 🙂

Power failure – Senoko could face fines – Are fines the end of it all? 

Though the recent power outage did not cause a public outrage, the silent resilience of an inconvenienced and choiceless people should not be used to whitewash mistakes made in the administration of public services in a country like Singapore. The less than prompt ability to manage a power failure raises important questions which must be answered.

The known cause of the power failure was the instantaneous disruption of the gas supply. However, this “instantaneous” disruption had an extremely drastic effect – the station’s generators failed to switch to diesel-fire generation and / or alternative gas supplies and rendered a portion of Senoko’s modern facility and talented management ineffective for 2 whole hours.

Senoko’s foreign talent CEO cited the unexpected and instantaneous nature of the disruption to excuse the failure of the plant to switch to using alternative sources of fuel. Did he expect warnings about an impending gas supply disruption before Senoko could react?

His expectation however raises the following serious questions / points:-

1.                  If there were backup measures in place as claimed, such measures ought to cover disruptions in supply including those instantaneous in nature would it be not?

2.                  By the way, are not disruptions almost always instantaneous?

3.                  Who built the pipeline? Why were sensors not installed to detect lapses in gas supply?

4.                 Even if Singaporeans accept the cause due to “the instantaneous nature of the supply disruption”, it still does not explain why it took Senoko a 2-hour lapse to restore power.

5.                 When the power was finally restored, was the power restored by a successful switch to alternative sources or was it restored by the resumption of gas supply from Petronas

6.                  If power was restored by a switch to alternative sources of fuel, why then does a switch to be made take two hours to be done when in normal circumstances, the plant was built for and was supposedly able to switch to alternative fuel supplies? Even if the instantaneous nature of the disruption had caused sent Senoko into shock and paralysis, surely concrete action must be taken after that initial shock.

7.                  If power was restored only because the gas supply was resumed, it only means that despite the supposed dual-fuel abilities of the plant, there was no alternative system of fuel provision that kicked in for 2 whole hours. This can only mean that the incident exposes Senoko power station’s lack of an effective and alternative fuel source?

8.                  Was there even an alternative fuel source for Senoko? Or was there an inability to switch to an alternative fuel source. If there was an inability to switch to an alternative fuel source, why was it so?

9.                 Were not our turbine generators formerly running on petroleum fuel? They were thereafter converted to be gas fired after the agreement to buy gas from Malaysia? When the conversion was done, why was the turbines’ ability to be petroleum-fired not preserved?

10.             What then is the current cost of the recommended switch to diesel fire generation and liquefied natural gas? Will Senoko and other like-minded GLCs choose to pass such cost on to the poor Singaporean consumer again?

11.              As this is a repeated incident, it is obvious that the million dollar fines are inadequate in deterring a GLC (which makes much money in enjoying so little competition in Singapore) from staying on its toes. All the more so when money passes from the left hand to the right.

12.              Essentially, there seems to be little or no effective countermeasures in place until the LNG receiving terminal is completed in 2012.

13.              Why was not an effective back up system designed and built into Singapore’s power grid during the years of utilities privatization and energy source conversion, given the opportunity to do so amidst fanfare raised about buying gas from Malaysia and Indonesia and the amount invested to convert power stations from petroleum-firing to gas-firing with an elaborate project of laying of gas pipelines?

14.              Was it because no one in the entire administration had ever thought about it?

15.              Or was it because there is little incentive to address the possibilities of such fault given the little competition the GLC faces in an essential service industry?

But all this fails to explain the lack of effective countermeasures by the administration despite the spate of blackouts in 2004. The LNG receiving terminal is a project more than 2 General Elections late – a dismal performance for an administration which has repeatedly claimed itself to be 1st World.


January 10, 2007 - Posted by | Politics

1 Comment »

  1. Thank you for writing to us. We do appreciate your making the effort.

    We receive 70 letters on average each day. Limited space means we can publish only about a dozen every weekday.
    This means having to make often-difficult editorial judgments on which letters to publish.

    We regret we are unable to publish your letter, and hope you will appreciate the constraints on space we face every day.
    We hope you will continue taking an interest in the Forum Page.

    You may want to contact the Energy Market Authority at 6835 8000.

    Yours sincerely

    Ms Noor Aiza
    for Forum Editor
    The Straits Times

    Comment by ST Forum Page | January 16, 2007 | Reply

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