The Backbone of Albania’s Power Generation

Komani refurbishment project, Interview with Fatos Bundo

In 2012, the Albanian state-owned utility KESH awarded ADRITZ Hydro a contract for the full-scale refurbishment of the Komani hydropower plant. Fatos Bundo is CEO Adviser to the Albanian Power ­Corporation, which is responsible for the overall energy supply in Albania. Hydro News spoke with him about his experiences during this important hydropower plant refurbishment.

With 600 MW, Komani is the largest hydropower plant in Albania, producing more than 30% of the country's total electricity demand.

Albania’s Komani hydropower plant is the second of three installations in the Drin River Cascade and the country’s most powerful hydropower plant. Located in northern Albania, with a 96 m head the plant features four vertical Francis units with a capacity of 150 MW each. Construction began in 1980, the first turbine began operations in 1985, and the full 600 MW generation capacity was achieved in 1988.

After more than two decades of operations, in 2012 the state-owned utility Korporata Elektroenergjitike Shqiptare sh.a (KESH) awarded ANDRITZ Hydro a contract for a full-scale refurbishment. The scope of supply included rehabilitation of turbine and generator components, electrical power systems, control and monitoring, and related auxiliary systems. The refurbishment., executed by ANDRITZ Hydro teams in Austria and Switzerland, was completed in February 2019 with the recommissioning of unit #4. Today the plant is producing around a third of Albania’s total electricity demand.

Why was a full-scale rehabilitation of the hydropower plant required at Komani?

By 2010, Komani had worked more than 20 years and rehabilitation is usually necessary after such a period. Inception study investigations showed that, with the exception of the runners, which were working smoothly, all the other mechanical and electrical components needed to be tested, measured and investigated to determine the need for repair, rehabilitation or replacement.

The aim was to improve the operational parameters of the units, bringing them back to the same level of performance as when it was constructed and increase readiness, efficiency and the life time of the plant. A partial rehabilitation would have only postponed a necessary full rehabilitation.

What special or unique characteristics were encountered at this project?

Komani is one of the biggest power stations in the Balkans. Consequently there were very strict requirements with regard to quality of engineering and the implementation of mechanical and electrical works. A very high level of engineering knowledge and experience was a prerequisite to successfully reach the objective of achieving the operational parameters of the plant established with the original design.

In terms of achieving that goal, one of the most challenging issues was the large dimensions of the equipment that had to be transported to the site and installed, as well as the harmonization of the rehabilitation works with the schedule of operations in terms of power generation for KESH.

With a rated capacity of 600 MW, Komani is the largest hydropower plant in Albania and produces a third of the country’s total electricity demand.

How was the sustainability of this project ensured?

As a very important element of Albania’s national infrastructure this EUR 35 million project was partially funded by a World Bank loan. Consequently, a critical aspect of this development was to meet the environmental requirements as set out in World Bank criteria. While no specific environmental key performance indicators have been applied for this project, the environmental requirements are in line with World Bank criteria standards for WB bid procedures.

Furthermore, the project itself has, for the first time, installed a system to drain the oil from the transformers. This is a new system that provides self-drainage and collection of oil in appropriate cotainers before further treatment off site. The main concern was that the oils were contaminating the waters of the Drin River.

Adapting the new equipment to the existing technology to achieve the best performance was a challenging task.

What considerations were taken into account in selecting the technology used?

The rehabilitation strategy that we adopted was not to radically change the existing design. We hoped to keep to the original technology as much as possible and to see where it was possible to adopt more modern and improved solutions. For example, as one of the modernization measures, it was decided to install a new chlorination system to stop algae and mussels from building up inside water pipes within the power plant. Another important modernization saw the installation of a completely new digital controlling and monitoring system for the generation units which was integrated with Albanian Power System protocols, for example.

Why was ANDRITZ Hydro selected as a supplier?

ANDRITZ Hydro Austria was the primary contractor while the owner’s engineering consultants were AF Consulting, Switzerland, and Junik sh.p.k. of Albania. We selected ANDRITZ Hydro to execute this very important project as they are very experienced and have specialist knowledge in the rehabilitation of hydropower plants. We have also had previous successful experiences in Albania with ANDRITZ Hydro, for example a transformer refurbishment project that was executed several years previously. Indeed, ANDRITZ Hydro submitted the only technically compliant offer received under this project tender.

Strict requirements and stipulations necessitated top tier expertise and experience for successful execution of the project.

How satisfied are you with the ANDRITZ Hydro offer and the execution of the project?

All activities performed by ANDRITZ Hydro were as per our expectations. They were very professional in their approach as well as in their project execution. In particular there were many challenges which emerged during the implementation phase. We raised a lot of difficulties related to the differences between the old technology which had been implemented in the past and adaptation of the new technology that had been proposed by the contractor. However, the ANDRITZ Hydro engineers and project managers have been very professional in accommodating all of these special requests and demands as they arose. This was a long-term project and took seven years from the date of the contract signature in July 2012. The commissioning procedure has been implemented as per time schedules agreed between all the concerned parties.

Overall how was your experience of working with ANDRITZ Hydro on this refurbishment project?

The plant is still under the monitoring process following recommissioning but it is performing at a high level and is very productive. Following the refurbishment it is once again on track to produce some 1,800 GWh annually as per the original specifications. That constitutes about 45% of the total Drin Cascade Production. As well as on-the-job training of the local staff by ANDRITZ Hydro specialists, dedicated courses were organized at the Komani site with a predefined thematic, as well as training in Austria. We’re currently recruiting local operations and maintenance staff and ANDRITZ Hydro operator training will enable us to continue training our staff. In addition, ANDRITZ Hydro is providing essential spare parts and all the technical documentation as per the contract agreement. We will certainly recommend further collaboration with Andritz Hydro to our management.

About:

Fatos Bundo is the CEO Advisor for the Albanian Power Corporation (APC) and Project Management Unit Director for Dam Safety. APC is responsible for overall energy supply in Albania. Bundo is the Project Manager for all dam safety contracts financed by the World Bank, KfW, EBRD and SECO for the Drin River Cascade. Among his responsibilities, he oversaw implementation of the electro-mechanical rehabilitation and installation of a new control and monitoring system at Komani.

Fatos Bundo, CEO Advisor for the Albanian Power Corporation (APC)

“The Drin River Cascade has a total installed capacity of 1,400 MW and is the backbone of Albania’s power generation. The Cascade also plays an important role in moderating water flows on the Drin River, reducing the frequency and risk of flooding as well as creating opportunities for fishing, transport, and tourism.”

Fatos Bundo, CEO Advisor for the Albanian Power ­Corporation (APC), Project Management Unit Director for Dam Safety.

Technical Details
Komani

Total output:600 MW 
Scope:4 × 150 MW
Head:96 m
Voltage:13.8 kV
Speed:158 rpm

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