Modification costs might help reduce overall cost of hydropower project

Amaila access road

The cost of the modification work currently being undertaken on the Amaila Falls access road is yet to be determined but it is felt that the additional sums to be spent now will help to reduce the overall cost of the project.

Fip Motilall has been asked to modify sections of the Amaila Falls access road in keeping with the recommendations of a recent report from independent consultants, who found that the original specifications for the US$15.4M ($3.1B) road contract were poorly designed. Motilall’s company Synergy Holdings was awarded that contract.

Fip Motilall

“We are still in discussions about additional costs,” government engineer Walter Willis told this newspaper yesterday when asked about the cost of expanding the road. He said that widening the road (travel-way) from 5 metres, as originally designed to 7 metres would also require the widening of the embankment.

The Government of Guyana is funding the construction of the Amaila Access road, as part of its equity contribution to the entire Amaila Falls Hydroelectric Project (AFHEP).

In June, the developer for the Amaila hydropower project Sithe Global commissioned BBFL Caribbean Ltd in collaboration with Earth Investigation Systems Ltd to review the Amaila Access Roads project. Noting that the specifications in the original project document were designed poorly, they recommended immediate changes to the design including widening the road and reducing its steepness (grades). The original specifications for the project would have been in the project document which was produced by National Industrial & Commercial Investments Ltd (NICIL).

The government, in a release issued Thursday, sought to explain the recent developments with the project.

The original road design, the release said, was prepared by the Ministry of Public Works in collaboration with Sithe Global with the design being reviewed by China Railway, the contractor for the hydropower plant.  In April, China Railway, inspected the access road and determined that “certain enhancements to the design should be made to facilitate the delivery of supplies and equipment to reduce the overall cost of the Amaila Falls project,” the statement further explained.

“China Railway indicated a preference for the wider road, higher degree of compaction and thicker capping to enhance the durability in anticipation of the continuous heavier load traffic expected on the road,” the release said.  “These enhancements facilitate the delivery of prefabricated equipment that is heavier but requires less cost to erect in the field,” the document explained.

Subsequently, Sithe Global, in consultation with the government, engaged the services of the Trinidadian consultants to evaluate China Railway’s requests as well as to independently verify the suitability of the work scope and changes made by the Public Works Ministry since the original award of the contract.

The report by the consultants, the release said, has independently confirmed that the changes in scope requested by the Public Works Ministry are suitable and will met the requirements of the project and China Railway.

Questioned as to why the faults in the specifications were not discovered earlier, Willis said that he felt that the 5 metres roadway would have been too narrow but he had to convince some others. There were also some issues with the contractor and the stipulations in the Information Memorandum for the document.

He said though that the Public Works Ministry later agreed that the road needed to be widened.

He said that they had to go through Sithe Global and in the end the report by the consultants saw consensus from all the parties that this was the way to go.

Motilall, who was expected to complete his contract by September 9, now has up to the end of December to finish the road.

According to Willis, so far 40 per cent of the project has been completed.

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