BENGALURU: An undetected oil leak caused a blast, leading to a fire, in the gas turbine chamber at the Yelahanka Gas Power Plant of the Karnataka Power Corporation Limited (KPCL) in Yelahanka New Town around 3.30 am on Friday. Fifteen KPCL employees, 11 of them ground engineers and one executive engineer, sustained burns.
The power plant was to start generating 20-30 MW of power on Friday and supply to the grid. The capacity of the plant is 370 MW and Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) was executing the project for which General Electric (GE) is supplying compressed natural gas (CNG).
KPCL Director (Technical) C Venugopal informed The New Indian Express that the incident occurred when oil started to leak from the bearings in the gas turbine chamber. As it reached a flashpoint, it caught fire with a blast and flames coming out of the chamber. The fire and heat built up so much inside the gas turbine chamber that its door was thrown open by sheer pressure just as the engineers and the workers were rushing towards it to check what had happened. A massive flame burst out of the door, causing the unsuspecting engineers and workers to suffer burns.
The injured were admitted to MS Ramaiah, Aster CMI and St John’s Hospital in Bengaluru, and KPCL will bear the cost of their treatment. Two of them were reportedly discharged after treatment.
Venugopal explained that the project has been designed in such a way that in case of excessive heat, the gas supply to chamber number-2 and the unit is cut off automatically. Had this not happened, the damage would have been much more as the entire gas line would have exploded.
KPCL Director (Technical) C Venugopal said it was an untoward accident and happened for the first time at the unit. The extent of damage cannot be assessed yet because the chambers and the unit are still very hot.
The incident occurred at the time of testing the open circuit and short circuit when the turbine was running at a speed of 3,000 revolutions per minute (RPM). The plan was to supply power from the unit in a phased manner, starting with 20-30 MW, from Friday, Venugopal said.
Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited (KPTCL) Managing Director V Manjula said the incident will have no impact on supply lines as it had not yet been connected to the grid.
Incidentally, no First Information Report (FIR) has been filed since it was an accidental fire, a senior police official said. A senior police officer from Yelahanka police station said Pulakeshi, the security manager of the premises, gave a statement to the police that KPCL engineers and staff were inspecting the plant when the incident occurred. They tried to douse the fire by alerting the fire tenders on the premises. Four fire tenders finally put out the blaze after two-and-a-half hours.
Engineers in charge of the project site said although the damage is not yet assessed, the site has been closed. “We do not know when it will be reopened,” they said, indicating that the 30MW of power that was to be added to the grid will not happen any time soon. A detailed inquiry into the matter has been ordered to ascertain how the incident occurred as well as the extent of damage. Until then, work on the site has been stopped, delaying generation of electricity from the unit.
Residents on Ananthapura Gate and surrounding areas on Doddaballapur Road panicked when they heard the blast and saw the fire. They were jolted out of bed due to the massive sound of the blast. “We thought there would be major power cuts. Power was cut off for a few minutes in the area only to check for damage, but was restored. As a precaution, we were instructed not to use heavy power-consuming appliances for a few hours,” said S Samguni, Puttenahalli resident.