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GE Under Fire in Pakistan for Troubled Gas Turbines

7HA Turbine7HA Turbine

General Electric’s flagship gas turbines ran into problems in Pakistan earlier this year, leading to delays and lengthy outages at three newly built power stations, according to several senior Pakistani officials and power executives. GE has said they were teething problems. But the questions over some of its most important products suggest another setback for the company in a year in which its shares have plunged and third-quarter results were called “horrible” by new Chief Executive John Flannery, Reuters reported.

There is no evidence that GE’s 9HA and 7HA turbines have fundamental design flaws. But so far the Pakistani plants, which began running this year, are producing power at levels well below their capacity and the problem was acute in the crucial summer months, when temperatures in the country frequently exceed 40 degrees Celsius.

Data from Pakistan’s Central Power Purchasing Agency, seen by Reuters, showed the Bhikki, Haveli and Balloki plants jointly generated only a half of their current maximum capacity in August. A month later all three plants showed improved output but remained well below capacity.

“It had terrible consequences because we lost a lot of power which would have come to the grid during the peak summer,” Yousaf Naseem Khokhar, the top civil servant in the Energy Ministry’s power division, told Reuters.

“It is now up to General Electric to rise to the challenge and to take care of these issues... before next summer starts,” he said.

Pakistan, desperate for additional electricity to avoid crippling blackouts, teamed up with GE to build the power stations at Bhikki, Haveli and Balloki, all in the most populous province Punjab, at breakneck speed. GE won the contracts to supply Pakistan with six turbines for the three power plants in 2015, based on the lowest priced deal per megawatt of capacity.

The first problem was that the deliveries were delayed by up to three months and missed some of the summer months this year, several Pakistani officials said. They said they were told the delays happened because a part of the turbine needed further testing. The delays infuriated Islamabad, because getting additional power during the summer was a crucial factor ahead of 2018 parliamentary elections. To fix this, and to apply the same remedy to the five other turbines, GE airlifted all the units to France for repairs.

 

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