Run-of-river hydropower plant
The Karot hydropower project is a 720MW run-of-river project being built on the Jhelum River, Rawalpindi district, Pakistan. It is being developed by Karot Power Company (KPCL), a special purpose vehicle in which China Three Gorges South Asia Investment (CSAIL) holds a majority share.
CSAIL was established by China Three Gorges Investments, the overseas intermediary of China’s state-owned China Three Gorges Corporation (CTGC). CTGC was founded to build the Three Gorges Project, which is the world’s biggest hydroelectric power plant with a 22.5GW capacity.
The project is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor initiative, which aims to build a 3,000km-long route between China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and the Gwadar Port. The route will pass through the Karakoram mountain range and Pakistan’s Balochistan Province, and connect China, Pakistan and the Arab world.
Estimated to cost $1.74bn, the hydropower project (HPP) will have a reservoir storage capacity of 164.5 million cubic metres. It is expected to create employment for 3,500 people, approximately 85% comprising local citizens.
The Karot HPP is the fourth of five cascade hydropower stations planned on the Jhelum River. It will generate 3,174GWh (net) of energy a year, which will be sold to National Transmission and Despatch Company under a 30-year power purchase agreement. The generated power will be sufficient to power approximately seven million households.
KPCL will operate the plant for a period of 30 years, after which ownership will be transferred to the Pakistan Government.
The dam is located near the villages of Karot, in Punjab, and Hollar, in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), which is roughly 55km south-east of Islamabad. The dam is expected to be 95.5m-high and 460m-wide across the Jhelum River.
The reservoir is expected to stretch approximately 27km upstream of the dam and feature a capacity of 152 million cubic metres at full supply level (FSL), which will be 461m above sea level. The surface powerhouse, consisting of four turbines, will be situated approximately 650m downstream of the dam crest and 300m upstream of the Karot Bridge.
The project will also include four 316m-long headrace tunnels, a spillway, three 447m-long diversion tunnels and coffer dams upstream and downstream of the main dam.
The plant will be interconnected to the national grid by means of a 5km-long, 500kV transmission line. It will operate for six months a year.
The construction of the Karot HPP was started in December 2016 with an estimated construction period of five years. The project is expected to be completed by December 2021.
The Karot HPP achieved financial close in March 2017 with 25% equity and 75% debt. A consortium of Chinese lenders and the World Bank’s investment arm International Finance Corporation (IFC) are providing the debt funding. Also included is a $100m loan from IFC.
The equity funding is expected to be invested by China’s $40bn Silk Road infrastructure fund. The Silk Road Fund Co has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with CTGC and the Pakistan Private Power and Infrastructure Board for financing the project.
As per the MoU, the fund is expected to provide capital and be a major shareholder in CSAIL. Karot HPP is the first investment project to be funded by the Silk Road fund. Export-Import Bank of China leads the consortium of financiers for the project.
The Environmental Protection Agencies (EPA) of Punjab and AJK approved the environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the run-of-river HPP in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
In January 2015, Pakistan Engineering Services (PES) updated the 2009 EIA following changes in the project design. The updated EIA was approved by EPA Punjab in July 2015, but consent from EPA AJK is still needed.
IFC evaluated the environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) report prepared by PES and fulfilled additional resource requirements to make the ESIA meet IFC standards.
KPCL appointed international consultancy firm Mott MacDonald UK to further improve the project’s environment and social aspects.
Yangtze Three Gorges Technology and Economy Development Company (TGDC) and China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) consortium was awarded the $1.27bn engineering, procurement and construction contract for the hydroelectric powerplant in 2015.
TGDC is responsible for the engineering and construction, while CMEC will be responsible for the procurement.
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