SN Powers’s renovation of the Binga HEP in the Philippines is drawing close to an end. By the end of this summer the last of the units will be installed and commissioned. My stay in the Philippines started in January this year and I’ll stay here until the end of June. This is the final rotation in my trainee program. Before I arrived both Magnus and Ole Jørgen have had one period of their trainee programs at this location. Therefore it was a quite well defined trainee program ahead of me upon my arrival. As part of the Binga rehabilitation project team my primary intended task was to hold the position as project planner. However, this has not been the case until now.
Two years ago the Ambuklao HEP renovation was completed and the plant was again put into operation (power plant located upstream Binga HEP and also an SN Power asset). Unfortunately in late 2012 it was discovered that the tailrace jetty at the end of draft tunnel had already suffered damages that needed to be repaired. I was assigned to be the Engineer for this job. The job was initially only to be a one month assignment; however due to increased scope of work the job has taken the majority of my time the last 2.5 months. My primary tasks can roughly be divided in two:
- follow up design with the designer and coordination with the contractor and
- represent the owner at site by following up the daily progress.
As the repair at Ambuklao has now been completed I’m back as project planner at Binga.
Both roles have been challenging, however challenging in different ways. At Binga I’m part of an electromechanical refurbishment project, and as I have no electrical or mechanical background I have been scratching my head a lot. I came to the Philippines without having been really close to anything like a generator or a turbine in operation. It is not always easy to understand how everything is interconnected when all is new to you. And it is essential to understand these things in order to make good planning. Luckily I have some good competent colleagues in this project, so I have not been left alone on my own.
Being the Engineer at the Ambuklao repair also had some challenges. Since part of the damage to the tailrace jetty was under the waterline the dimensions of the work was initially unclear. This meant that the design had to be revised during the works. A lot of decisions had to be made quickly to avoid delays. The Ambuklao HEP was closed for production as the work was performed at the end of the tailrace tunnel. It was critical that we could get the area dry to be able to perform a quality repair. As the power plant was out, the water level in the reservoir was steadily increasing. As spilling of water was equally damaging as production thru the tunnel for the repair, the rise in water level was constant reminder that the plant had to be put into operation as soon as possible. Being new to the role and the site, this was challenging at times. But never the less, today is the repair completed.
Even though there have been many Saturdays and Sundays at work there has also been some opportunities some of what the Philippines have to offer from a more touristic point of view. The power plant is located in the mountains of Luzon, however there is only a 2-2.5 hour drive down to the cost. Here I have enjoyed the sandy beaches and the fairly good surfing opportunities. In the area close to the power plants there are good hiking opportunities, fantastic scenery with rice fields covering the mountain slopes and one may also find caves with mummies inside them.
During Easter I had the opportunity to have a few days of and visit the Visayas. Fantastic islands with nice beaches, great snorkeling and diving opportunities, swimming with whale sharks and sea turtles, driving a the chaotic traffic with a small scooter was all part of a great holyday.
Finally I would just like to add that the Filipinos are really a polite and joyful people, every morning I’m met with a smile and a “hello sir”. It really is a pleasure being a visitor to this country.
A downside in living here is the time difference. It is impossible to find a suitable time to meet people from home on Skype; either I’m or they are sleeping or at work once the other has the possibility to have a chat.
Anyway the Philippines has so far been a good experience. And (as I stated in my last blog in relation to the Cetin project) even though I’m looking with great enthusiasm forward to the last three months it will be good to be back home at the end of the trainee program. 🙂