Russia’s Race for Refurbishment

With power demand in Russia and the neighboring Caucasus region experiencing long-term growth, the pressure is on to secure new sources of sustainable energy. One of the fastest ways of achieving this is repowering and refurbishment of existing hydro facilities.

David Appleyard
chief editor of HRW-Hydro Review Worldwide.

According to recent figures from the US-based Energy Information Administration, total electricity generation in non-Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Europe and Eurasia — which covers the region known as the Caucaus and includes parts of Russia, Turkey, Armenia, Iran and Azerbaijan — will grow at an average rate of 1.6% per year, from 1,600 TWh in 2007 to 2,500 TWh in 2035.

EIA’s International Energy Outlook 2010 reports that Russia, the largest economy in the region, accounted for about 60% of its total generation in 2007 and is expected to retain about that share throughout the period.

Renewable generation in non-OECD Europe and Eurasia, almost entirely from hydro facilities, is expected to increase by an average of 1.3% per year, largely — the EIA acknowledges — as “a result of repairs and expansions at existing sites, such as reconstruction of turbines in the 6,400 MW Sayano-Shushenskaya plant, which was damaged in an August 2009 accident.”

Energy Minister of Russia Sergei Shmatko confirmed at the opening keynote address of the 2011 HydroVision Russia and Russia Power event, which took place in Moscow in March, that electricity consumption in Russia had returned to pre-crisis levels and that demand for 2011 was expected to grow by 2% on 2010 figures.

The energy minister emphasized the importance of Russia addressing the problem of its aging power infrastructure, with 60% of the country’s power generation capacity having been in operation for at least 30 years. In the hydroelectric sector, which accounts for 17-18% of generation capacity, that figure jumps to 40 years.

Nonetheless, according to Shmatko, Russia is in the process of conducting a “unique” modernization program of its hydropower assets, with, for example, RusHydro, the country’s major hydroelectric generator, expecting to replace all of its obsolete equipment by 2025. This was confirmed by Evgeny Dod, management board chairman of RusHydro and another of the keynote speakers at this conference and exhibition.

Certainly, as far as the Caucasus is concerned, Russia appears to be leading the charge with this type of development. In particular, RusHydro has signed a memorandum of understanding with Alstom Hydro to participate in development of RusHydro’s assets, including a decision to consider possibilities of cooperation with respect to the reconstruction and refurbishment of several operating Russian hydro plants, including pumped-storage plants, as well as optimization and maintenance.

As a first case, Alstom and RusHydro have agreed to consider how they could cooperate on modernization of the Kubansky cascade complex in southern Russia. A more detailed look at this project will be provided in a future edition of HRW-Hydro Review Worldwide.

In a related development, RusHydro and Voith Hydro have signed a separate MOU that will also focus on upgrading and re-equipping the utility’s hydro plants. The terms of the deal provides for the joint consideration of technical and commercial terms of a long-term contract to supply equipment for RusHydro’s generating facilities. Among the work included is almost complete upgrading of the Volga-Kama and Caucasian hydropower plants.

As part of this deal, a contract with Voith Hydro St. Polten for modernization of 1,360 MW Saratovskaya in the Volga-Kama hydropower cascade of southwestern Russia has an order value amounting to €140 million (US$190.8 million). Upgrading the first five Kaplan turbines, each with a diameter of 10.3 meters, is expected to increase capacity of each unit to 68 MW from 60 MW.

Last year also saw RusHydro reveal plans to complete upgrading of the main equipment at its Uglich plant by 2020. As part of the upgrade, RusHydro has already reconstructed a second power unit at Uglich, after which the unit’s capacity increased to 65 MW from 10 MW. The upgrade was carried out by Voith Hydro and cost an estimated €34 million ($44.3 million). Repairs and upgrades of the Uglich plant’s first unit are now reportedly under way.

Power Machines had previously arranged a partnership with RusHydro for large-scale renovation of hydropower units at Saratovskaya and other projects in the 10 GW Volga-Kama cascade.

Among contracts developed under that umbrella deal is one for the upgrade of four hydraulic units at Volzhskaya on a turnkey arrangement.

Power Machines will design, manufacture, test and supply four hydraulic turbines of 145 MW maximum capacity each within the project to upgrade Units 12, 8, 5 and 20 of Volzhskaya and will also supervise installation and start-up operations. Upon completion, the upgraded Volzhskaya turbines will increase rated capacity to 129 MW from 118 MW, while at the maximum water pressure, capacity will be up to 145 MW, Power Machines says.

The contract’s time frame is 2011 through 2013. Commissioning of the first three turbines is slated for the first, second and fourth quarters of 2012. The fourth turbine is scheduled to be put into service in the second quarter of 2013.

Volzhskaya is the largest plant of the Volga-Kama Cascade and the largest in Europe, with a rated capacity of 2.57 GW. The long term program for upgrading and retooling of the complex was implemented in 2005, and the program is expected to be completed by 2020. Eight of the 22 turbines at Volzhskaya have already been replaced. Eighteen of these units have a capacity of 115 MW, two 120 MW, another two 125.5 MW, and one 11 MW. Overall, the upgrade and modernization activities will increase Volzhskaya’s rated capacity by 203.5 MW of design value at a total investment up to 2020 amounts estimated at RUB10 billion ($312 million).

The first power unit at the installation began operation in late 1958.

In addition, Power Machines has signed a contract with RusHydro to supply nine units to the 2,300 MW Zhigulevskaya station on the Volga River in Russia, Power Machines says.

The contract, worth RUB11.5 billion ($370.7 million), is part of a program of technical re-equipment and reconstruction of Zhigulevskaya in 2011-2015, which the company says is aimed at accelerating the pace of reconstruction.

As part of the contract, Power Machines will design, manufacture and supply the 129 MW units. It must also partially replace ancillary equipment. Commissioning of the first unit is scheduled for 2013. The new units will increase total plant capacity by about 94 MW, Power Machines reported, with installation of the new units increasing the power rating of each generator by 10.5 MW (from 115 MW to 125.5 MW).

Again, Power Machines will design, manufacture and supply nine hydropower units as well as installation supervision and will participate in start-up work for commissioning.

The launch of the first renovated unit at Zhigulevskaya is planned for 2013, and the final unit is scheduled for commissioning at the end of 2016.

Late in 2010, another contract was signed that will see Power Machines renovate Rybinskaya’s hydraulic Unit 2, also on a turnkey basis.

Under this contract, Power Machines will design, manufacture and supply a 65 MW turbine as well as auxiliary equipment and dismantle old machinery, supervise installation activities, and manage start-up and commissioning operations. The renovation project is expected to allow for increasing the hydraulic unit’s capacity by 10 MW. Equipment delivery is scheduled to commence in fourth quarter of 2012 and terminate in the early part of 2013, with the renovated unit anticipated to be put into operation in the autumn of 2013.

The Rybinskaya contract came close on the heels of another renovation deal for Power Machines, with a contract for the reconstruction of seven impellers at Cheboksarskaya hydro plant.

Under the terms of the agreement, Power Machines is reconstructing impellers of hydro Units 2, 6, 10, 12, 13, 15 and 17, including the production of new parts and elements of rotary vane impellers. The first of the seven impellers is scheduled to be delivered in May 2013 and the last in May 2016.

The aim of the reconstruction is to change the hydro units from propeller-induced to rotary vane mode. This will significantly improve performance and increase the hydropower plant’s efficiency as a whole, Power Machines says in a statement, noting that the move will enable a 7% increase in available capacity.

In fact, Power Machines began to work on reconstruction of Cheboksarskaya some six years ago with a 2008 contract to reconstruct the impeller of Unit 7. Work on reconstructing the Unit 8 impeller is currently being completed. In addition, Power Machines is due to complete reconstruction of the Unit 16 impeller as HRW-Hydro Review Worldwide goes to press, and Unit 4 in the second quarter of 2012.

Reconstruction of the Cheboksarskaya impellers is being carried out as part of the large scale station modernization program and is aimed at not only increasing hydro unit capacity but also at increasing operational reliability and safety of the whole plant.

Power Machines is currently jointly working on refurbishment projects being carried out at Sayano-Shushenskaya, Volzhskaya and Saratovskaya.

Power Machines and Voith Hydro are not the only companies to benefit under RusHydro’s refurbishment program. For example, in August 2011 Emerson Process Management signed an MOU for process automation projects that are expected to improve the reliability and availability of RusHydro’s hydroelectric units.

The agreement covers automation-related services as part of the reconstruction, modernization and upgrade of RusHydro’s Volzhskaya, Saratovskaya and Votkinskaya plants. The two companies may also cooperate on modernization of control systems at hydro plants in Dagestan, a statement from Emerson says.

“We are pleased to already be working with Emerson at our Volzhskaya, Saratovskaya and Votkinskaya plants,” said Rahmetulla Alzhanov, chief engineer and deputy chairman of RusHydro’s management board, adding: “And we expect that further work with this automation company will help us upgrade our generating capacities and improve process safety, reliability and operating efficiency.”

Beyond Russia

While it is clearly the Russian Caucasus that is seeing the most intense refurbishment activity, as a major regional influence, RusHydro is also engaged in a refurbishment program in Armenia, where it is moving to control significant power generation and distribution assets.

For instance, according to recent press reports, RusHydro plans to buy hydro plants in Armenia currently owned by International Energy Corporation, a subsidiary of Russian state-controlled power trader Inter RAO UES, and invest about €40 million ($52 million) in their reconstruction.

“We have agreed with our colleagues from Inter RAO that they specialise more in heat power plants. I hope we will complete the deal on the asset purchase in the nearest future,” RusHydro chairman Yevgeny Dod reportedly said. He was further quoted as saying: “The programme of comprehensive reconstruction was agreed with the government of Armenia three years ago. The parties have currently achieved an agreement in principle, but the date of signing has not yet been confirmed. The price parameters of the deal have been agreed and no exchange deals are envisaged.”

In fact, Armenia’s hydro refurbishment plans were launched at least five years ago, when the government of Armenia awarded a $11.4 million contract to three domestic firms to rehabilitate structures and install safety equipment at Marmarik Dam on the country’s Marmarik River.

Sahakyanshin CJSC, Horizon-95 Ltd. and Archmonstroy Ltd. are to perform the work, including reconstruction of a portion of the dam, a renewed flood control spillway, damage control of an irrigation outlet, an operational service building, increasing of safety of dam structures and safety provisions for the downstream population.

At the same time, the country sought bids for the rehabilitation of Kechut Dam,including the construction of a new spillway and installation of dam safety measures, as well as inviting inquiries from prospective bidders to participate in small hydropower development and hydro rehabilitation.

In neigboring Azerbaijan, meanwhile, refurbishment of the Mingachevir hydroelectric station is under way, while preparatory work has begun on reconstruction of the 16 MW Varvara hydroelectric station, some 20 km to the east. By increasing the capacity of each of the six units at Mingachevir to 70 MW, total capacity will rise from 320 MW to 420 MW. Equipment is being purchased from French company Areva, while building and assembly work on the plant, originally completed in 1953, is to be carried out by local company Azenko. As part of the project, a substation will be completely rebuilt and the control room will be relocated and will become fully automated.

Volzhskaya Dam impounds water for a 2,541 MW hydro project that is undergoing an upgrade of four units. Volzhskaya is the largest hydro plant in Europe, and capacity will increase by 44 MW when this work is complete.

The Armenian dam safety work is part of a World Bank-funded program of rehabilitation and monitoring of numerous dams in the country. Indeed, much of the bank’s regional investment funding is going toward the rehabilitation and upgrading of energy facilities, although not all are hydro.

In 2011, EBRD announced it is making a €40 million ($52 million) equity contribution to establish the Clean Energy Transition Fund, which has a target size of €200 million ($272.3 million).

The fund is to increase available capital in Turkey and neighboring countries in the western Balkans and the Caucasus to develop cleaner energy resources. The bank said the fund would focus on hydropower, wind, geothermal, biomass and solar generation.

EBRD said the fund will seek to make 10 to 15 equity investments with individual investments of €5-30 million ($6.8-$40.8 million). At least 70% of operations are to be in Turkey, with the remainder in the western Balkans and the Caucasus, the bank says.


While much of the Caucasus region’s existing hydro work is focused on new projects — given that hydro resources are largely under developed — there is still nonetheless considerable scope for continued refurbishment and rehabilitation within this large area. And, while Russia is clearly the current rehabilitation boom-town, with power demand increasing at a significant pace within many of the Caucasus countries, the need to maximize existing assets is anticipated to result in more refurbishment under way in the near future.

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