Bakun Hydroelectric Project

Bakun Hydroelectric Project

The Bakun Hydroelectric Project is located in Sarawak, Malaysia on the once completed.

The purpose for the dam was to meet growing demand for electricity. However, most of this demand said to lie in Peninsular Malaysia and not East Malaysia, where the dam is located. Even in Peninsular Malaysia, however, there is an over-supply of electricity, with Tenaga Nasional Berhad being locked into unfavourable purchasing agreements with Independent Power Producers. The original idea was to have 30% of the generated capacity consumed in East Malaysia and the rest sent to Peninsular Malaysia. This plan envisioned 730 km of overhead HVDC transmission lines in East Malaysia, 670 km of undersea HVDC cable and 300 km of HVDC transmission line in Peninsular Malaysia.

Future plans for the dam include connecting it to an envisioned Trans-Borneo Power Grid Interconnection, which would be a grid to supply power to Sarawak, Sabah, Brunei, and Kalimantan (Indonesia). There have been mentions of this grid made within ASEAN meetings but no actions have been taken by any party.

Project history

First attempt

Initial survey was conducted in early 1960s and more studies were conducted in early 1980s. The studies cover the masterplan & feasibility report, rock & soil studies, hydro potential, detailed design & costing, environmental & socio-economic studies and HVDC transmission studies. Notable consultants involved were SAMA Consortium German Agency for Technical Cooperation, Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation & Maeda-Okumura Joint Venture, Fitchner and Swed Power Swedish Agency for Technical Cooperation.

The project was first approved by government in 1986, it was shelved in 1990 due to decreased projection of electricity demand due to recession of 1985 and the decision to use the then low-cost natural gas a fuel for developing the petrochemical industry.

econd attempt

It was revived in September 1993 by Malaysian Federal Government led by then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad. In January 1994, privatized contract was awarded to Ekran Berhad. In April 1995, Ekran completes the EIA of the project. The project was to cost US$2.4 billion and was originally scheduled for completion in 2003.

The dam was to be built beginning in 1994 by a privatised joint-venture consortium called Bakun Hydroelectric Corporation, comprising Ekran Berhad, Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), the government of Sarawak, Sarawak Electricity Supply Corporation (Sesco), and Malaysia Mining Corporation Bhd (MMC). Ekran awarded the electromechanical works and the transmission portion to ABB. ABB's consortium partner for the civil works will be Companhia Brasileira de Projetos e Obras (CBPO) of Brazil, a large civil engineering company belonging to the Odebrecht Group, responsible for the construction of the dam and power house. Engineering consulting firms involved in the project then were TNB Hydro, a subsidiary of Tenaga Nasional Berhad and KLIA Consult.

Ekran launched a rights issue to finance the building of the dam, but it was undersubscribed and Ting Pek Khing (Ekran's chairman) had to put up $500 million to take up the unsubscribed portion as part of his agreement with the underwriters. Ekran was a company of Ting Pek Khing, himself a timber businessman. Neither he nor his company had built a dam before. The entire project was not tendered publicly, and instead was awarded by government contract.

The project was halted in 1997 in the face of the Asian financial crisis. When the project was shelved, the Malaysian government took back the project from this consortium. By this time, RM 1.6 Billion had already been paid out by the government. RM700 million to RM1.1 billion was paid as 'compensation' to Ekran, according to figures disclosed in Parliament. The completed works were the river diversion tunnels by Dong Ah of Korea for RM 400 million, and to Global Upline for work completed on the auxiliary coffer dams for RM 60 million. Other works are for selective clearing of biomass, and relocation of the affected native residents. The government had also turned over RM 1 billion for the purchase of 8 turbines.

Third attempt

In May 2000 it was revived through a 100% government owned company, Sarawak Hidro, but the transmission of power to Peninsular Malaysia was not part of the revived project. The construction work was tendered out as a turnkey contract. The completion date has been revised to February 2008.

The new civil builder is the Malaysia-China Hydro JV consortium, led by Sime Engineering Berhad of Malaysia (a subsidiary of Sime Darby and Sino-Hydro Corporation of China. Other members of the consortium are WCT Berhad, MTD Capital, Ahmad Zaki Resources, Syarikat Ismail and Edward & Sons. It targeted a completion date of September 2007. The total sum to be paid to this consortium was budgetted at RM 1.8 billion. The electromechanical works for the turbines were awarded in two contracts to IMPSA of Argentina and Alstom of France.

In 2004, engineering consulting firm JW Knowles, was hired to study the delays in construction. Other engineering consulting firms involved in the project were Snowy Mountain Engineering Corporation, of Australia and Opus International Malaysia.

Items of temporary interest during third attempt

In May 2004 Ting Pek Khing's name again was raised in connection with the project. A Ting-owned company, Global Upline, was rumoured to be awarded a contract to undertake "biomass removal" in the flood basin. This would allow him to harvest timber in the area without a separate permit. Issuance of timber permits has come under increased scrutiny due to political conditions and environmental concerns. However, as of December 2006 it has not been awarded.

Usage of the generated capacity was to have been by a proposed aluminium smelting plant in Similajau, near Bintulu, approximately 180 km inland from the dam. The project is a joint venture between Dubai Aluminum Co, Ltd (Dubal) and Gulf International Investment Group (GIIG), an investment fund jointly set up by Malaysian tycoon Syed Mokhtar, and Dubai-based international financier Mohamed Ali Alabbar. This plant was expected to consume 50% of the power generated. The government has agreed in principle that 60% of Sarawak Hidro, the entity which owns the dam, will be sold to GIIG. Due to delays in dam construction, the plans for the smelter have since been shelved. The agreement for this smelter was originally signed in 2003 and some conditions have lapsed due to delays in construction. Rio Tinto announced in August 2007 that they had signed a deal with Malaysian conglomerate Cahya Mata Sarawak Berhad (CMSB) to build an aluminium smelter. The production capacity would be 550,000 tonnes initially with expansion to 1.5 million tonnes possible. Production of aluminium would start at the end of 2010.cite web|title = Rio Tinto in $2bn smelter deal||date=2007-08-07|url=,23636,22203655-14334,00.html|accessdate = 2007-08-07]

At the end of 2004, the minor partners in the Malaysia-China Hydro JV consortium (Ahmad Zaki Resources Bhd, WCT Engineering Bhd and MTD Capital) will report quarterly losses due to the Bakun project. Discounting this project, they would all be operating profitably for the quarter.
*For Ahmad Zaki Resources Bhd, this is the first time it will report losses since 1993. Ahmad Zaki estimates net losses suffered for nine months ending September 30 2004 at RM4.55 million.
*WCT has reported a net loss of RM13.08 million for the quarter ending September 30 2004 due to the Bakun project.
*MTD Capital reported a RM4.04 million loss in the quarter ending September 30 2004 and attributed it to "a major project undertaken by the company in joint venture with both local and foreign partners" without specifically naming Bakun.
*The lead partner in the project, Sime Engineering reported a profit of RM521,000 for the same quarter versus a profit of RM4.18 million for the same quarter in 2003. Declines in profit were attributed to cost overruns and project delays.

In November 2007, Sime Darby, the parent company of the contractor Sime Engineering will be merged with Golden Hope and Guthrie into a new company with a market capitalization of RM 31 billion (USD 8 billion). [] Concurrently with the merger, the contractor Sime Engineering will takeover the ownership of the Bakun Dam project. []

As of February 2007, there are three developments affecting the Bakun project. The first is the merger of the Sime Darby, Guthrie and Golden Hope into a new entity named Synergy Drive. The second is the proposed takeover of the Bakun project by the contractor, Sime Engineering. The third is the revival of the submarine HVDC cable under the South China Sea to transport electricity from Borneo to Malaya.

=Environmental and social da

Once in operation, the Bakun dam will put 700 km² of land under water - equivalent to the size of Singapore. The rainforest of this part of Southeast Asia has some of the highest rates of plant and animal endemism, species found there and nowhere else on Earth, and this dam has done irreparable ecological damage to that region.

Construction of the dam required the relocation of more than 9,000 native residents (mainly Kayan/Kenyah) of the indigenous peoples who lived in the area to be flooded. Many Sarawak natives have been relocated to a longhouse settlement named Sungai Asap in Bakun. Most of them were subsistence farmers.

They did not have any use for money - the forest provided the food and shelter - and now they are being asked to pay about $15,000 for a one-bedroom home. That's about 50 per cent more than a low-cost home in the capital, Kuala Lumpur. Most are struggling to make the payments because the jobs they were promised at the dam site never materialised. Alcoholism is said to be rife among many of the residents who have been moved from their ancestral lands which they have a mystic connection to.

Concerns were raised also about such things as the relocation of people; amount of virgin tropical rainforest which had to be cut down (230 km²); possible dam collapse issues; increase in diseases with water-borne vectors such as schistosomiasis, opisthorchiasis, malaria, and filariasis; and sediment accumulation shortening the useful lifespan of the dam.

Bakun Dam technical specifications

The permanent dam components are as follows:
*Main Dam
**Maximum height above foundation of 205m, and crest length of 750m, volume of fill is 16.71 million cubic metres.
**Crest elevation is 235m above sea level (ASL), maximum flood level is 232m, operating levels maximum 228m and minimum 195m.
**Reservoir area at 228m ASL is 695 km², and with a catchment area of 14,750 km². Gross storage volume is 43,800 million cubic meters.
*Power Intake Structure - 8 bays with 16 roller gates.
*Gated Spillway- gated concrete weir with chute and flip bucket, with capacity of 15,000 cubic meter per second.
*Power Tunnels - 8 tunnels of 8.5m diameter each with lengths of 760m each.
**surface powerhouse, with 4 level measuring 250m length x 48m width x 48m height
**with 8 penstocks to powertrains comprising 8 vertical shaft Francis turbines of 300MW each, 8 air-cooled generators of 360MVA each and 8 oil-immersed transformers of 360MVA each.

Transmission lines

There are three major transmission lines sections:

The first is the Bakun to Bintulu HVAC double circuit overhead lines for a distance of 160 km. This 275 kV line will carry power to a substation at Bintulu into the Sarawak state electricity grid that is operated by Sarawak Electricity Supply Corporation.

The second section is the Bakun to Tanjung Parih HVDC overhead line for a distance of 670 km. This is a bipolar line of 500 kV line.

The third section is the Tanjung Parih to Tanjung Tenggara submarine cable for a distance of 670 km. This is a HVDC line at 500 kV with 3 or 4 cables with carrying capacity of 700 MW each.

As part of the transmission works two converter stations will be built at Bakun and Tanjung Tenggara. The HVDC lines will connect to the National Grid, Malaysia operated by Tenaga Nasional Berhad.

Revival of submarine cable component

The revived submarine cable portion is to transport the electricity generated at Bakun Dam in Borneo to Malaysia, possibly by year 2012. The consortium partners equity possibly will be Sime Darby (60%), Tenaga Nasional (20%) and the Malaysian Ministry of Finance (20%). The consortium is exploring financing facilities of up to 80% of the planned investment.

The cable is planned to transport 1600 MW of power from the Bakun Dam to Yong Peng via undersea HVDC power cables and then via land line onto the Malaysian National Grid. The use of HVDC cables would ensure the energy loss is minimal, at about 5% to 6% only. The cost of the undersea cable is estimated at RM 9 billion. The proposed concept is for 2 x 800 MW cables being laid about 660 km under the South China Sea from the Sarawak shore to Yong Peng on Malaya.

Sime Darby would take ownership of the submarine cable project but not undertake its construction. The contractor is rumoured to be Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhad (MRCB), a public listed company on the KLSE.

The buyer of electricity is Tenaga Nasional. The rate proposed is RM 0.17 per kilowatt hour at the intake onto the National Grid. Analysts estimated that generation cost using world market rate natural gas would cost RM 0.22 per kilowatt hour. A 4% increase every 4 years is envisaged over the 35 year concession period. [Rajan Moses: "Sime to power up mega Bakun project", "New Strais Times", February 2, 2007]

On January 7, 2008, Sime Darby announce that they have appointed a financial adviser for the under sea power transmission project. However, the company did not named the financial adviser. [ [ Sime appoints financial adviser for Bakun transmission] ]


Once completed:
*Bakun Dam will be the tallest concrete faced rockfill dam (CFRD) in the world.
*Bakun Lake will be the biggest lake in Malaysia by storage volume.
*Bakun Lake will be the largest lake in Malaysia by surface area, even though it is not apparent on the map, due to the sliver shape of the various lake tributaries, as a result of location in the highland valleys.
*Bakun Power Station will be the largest hydroelectric dam in Malaysia, surpassing the currently largest Pergau Dam's power station in Malaysia.
*Bakun submarine power cable will be the longest in the world, surpassing the current Norway to Netherland submarine cable.

ee also

*National Grid, Malaysia
*Sarawak Electricity Supply Corporation


*Harvard reference | Surname=Economic Planning Unit | Given= | Title=Bakun – Green Energy For The Future | Publisher=Percetakan Nasional Bhd | Place=Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | Year=1996 | url=
*Jagdev Singh Sidhu: "Govt asked to take over Bakun", "The Star", February 2, 2007

External links

* [ Bakun National Hydroelectric Project] Joint venture (construction) site.
* [ Bukun Hydroelectric Project] Government of Malaysia site.
*Role of ABB [] extracted 15 December 2006
*Project History [ International Development Study] extracted 15 December 2006.
* [|The Bakun Hydroelectric Project - Malaysia] Friends of the Earth site.
* [ Dirty dam draws dirty smelters] "Asian Times Online." Extracted January 26, 2006.

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