I recently went to visit the Bakun dam due to work assignments, after having not been there for quite sometime. The last time was about 3 years ago, when the construction activities were at its heights.
To go to Bakun, we have to fly from KL to Bintulu, then on we’ll have to travel by land using 4WD from Bintulu towards Miri. At Semilajau, 50 km north of Bintulu, we’ll have to turn right towards Belaga and Bakun, which is another 180 km away, through partly surfaced road. After Tubau, the road got worst, damaged due to rain and the heavy weights of the logging trucks. It took between 2.5 to 3 hours to reach the Bakun dam site from Bintulu.
Fast facts about Bakun Dam:
• The Bakun Hydroelectric Dam is the second highest concrete faced rockfill dam (CFRFD) in the world
• Bakun dam is located on Balui River in the upper Rejang River basin, 37km upstream from Belaga.
• Bakun dam is 207 metres high with a reservoir surface area of nearly 70,000 hectares, about the size of Singapore.
• The main civil works began in 2002 by Malaysia-China Hydro Joint Venture.
• A workforce of just over 3000 are on site at the peak of construction activity.
• Experts, engineers, specialists and consultants worldwide are involved in this mega-project.
• Upon completion, the Bakun Dam will generate 2400MW of clean electricity (300 MW x 8 turbines)
• Bakun is now owned and developed by Sarawak Hidro, a fully-owned unit of the Minister of Finance Inc (MOF Inc). It will continue to develop it until full commissioning of the generating units.
• The dam is expected to be completed by December 2011. The overall cost of Bakun has been put at RM7.3 billion, but due to cost overruns, compensation for delays and interests, the final cost is said to have escalated.
• Bakun Dam is emission-free and has a 0% impact on global warming.
Simple history of Bakun Dam
The Bakun Dam was originally proposed in the early 1960s and its long history includes:
Early 1960s Initial physical survey of the hydroelectric potential of Sarawak.
1970s to 80s Detailed examination of the Bakun site, and preparation of development proposals.
1986 Decision by the Malaysian government to build the project.
1990 Postponement of the project.
1993 Revival of the project.
1994 Awarding of project to Ekran Berhad.
1996 Construction begins.
1997 Asian Economic crisis and second postponement of project.
2002 Awarding of project to Malaysia-China Hydro Joint Venture.
2011 Project completion and delivery.
Impoundment of the Bakun Dam
The impoundment of Bakun dam started on Wednesday morning, October 13, 2011 after closure of the diversion tunnel gates and the flooding would take about seven months to reach the minimum operation elevation of 195 meters (above sea level) to run the wet-test of the turbine.
During the impoundment, the flow downstream of the dam would be maintained through a mechanism to release between 150 and 260 cu-m per second of water depending on the reservoir level from the water release outlet to maintain the minimum base flow in the river downstream, including Sungai Rajang which meets the sea at Sibu.
Information on Bakun Dam
The story of Bakun Dam is filled with controversies and I don’t intend to go into all those issues but rather more on my personal experience in dealing with the project and visiting the magnificient dam site. To those interested to find out more, you can visit www.bakundam.com (although as of today, it has not been uploaded with latest information).
The latest news was puiblished by the Borneo Post dated 5th May 2011 (copied below):
Commercial power by July by Peter Sibon. Posted on May 5, 2011, Thursday
KUCHING: Trial run of Bakun Dam turbines likely to start next month as water level more than enough. The water level at Bakun hydro-electric dam reached the required 195-metre level on April 28. This means that trial run of the first of eight turbines can start as early as next month.
Sarawak Hidro chief executive officer/managing director Zulkifle Osman said as of yesterday the water level had risen to 198.25 metres. He explained that his team had to monitor the situation carefully before deciding on the date for the trial run to prevent any misjudgment which could adversely affect the RM7.2 billion project. “We have to look at all aspects of the safety of the dam before we can start trial run of the first turbine, probably by next month,” Zulkifle told The Borneo Post here yesterday. He added that Sesco was assisting Sarawak Hidro to monitor the situation in terms of safety. Zulkifle added that if the trial run proceeded smoothly, it would mean that the first turbine could produce commercial power by July, with an initial capacity of 300 megawatts.
Bakun dam has a total of eight turbines which could produce a total of 2,400 megawatt of electricity once it is fully operational next year. Zulkifle said among the major aspects of the trial runs is the ‘wet test’ of the turbine. On another matter, he said the water level in Batang Rajang had almost returned to its original state. The water level had nosedived when impoundment of the dam began on Oct 13 last year. He said he believed that once the impoundment exercise was over, the water level would be back to normal.
Batang Rajang, the main mode of transportation for some 30,000 residents living above Kapit town, has been badly affected by the impoundment exercise. Asked about the strength of the dam, Zilkifle stressed that it was “built to last”. “The dam has been approved by qualified consultants appointed by the state government. The dam is built to last. What matter most is the depth of the dam that can withstand the pressure for long term.”