MOSCOW (Reuters) - Some Russian thermal power plants are moving to halt or delay maintenance as the coronavirus crisis has prevented them from bringing in foreign specialists, and they face problems with supplies of imported and Russian-made spare parts.
Russia, which has reported 32,008 cases of the novel coronavirus, relies on foreign equipment and expertise to service its conventional power stations, but it has barred entry to all foreigners to slow the spread of infection.
The Energy Ministry has said the coronavirus crisis has not affected electricity supply, but problems may arise in the coming months in servicing plants if lockdown measures are maintained across the world.
Repairs and a planned inspection came to a halt at a major power station owned by state energy holding InterRAO in the Chelyabinsk region, some 1,500 kilometres (932 miles) east of Moscow, because foreign specialists working there left last month.
The gas turbine at the plant was made by Germany’s Siemens, although Siemens said it had not been tasked with maintaining it since the end of 2016.
InterRAO did not name the firm responsible for maintaining the plant, but Italy’s Ansaldo Energia received a five-year contract in 2017 to service the facility, the Italian company said in 2017.
Turbines made by Ansaldo Energia are also used at Russian power plants operated by gas giant Gazprom and Finnish energy company Fortum.
Gazprom and Fortum said they would not comment on any repairs being carried out at their stations. Ansaldo Energia did not reply to a request for comment.
Dmitry Vologzhanin, the head of an industry lobby group, told the Energy Ministry this month the lack of foreign spare parts and specialists could create delays affecting 40 power-generating units with a capacity of 6,000 megawatts.
Deputy Energy Minister Yevgeny Grabchak, however, said only units with a power-generating capacity of 3,000 megawatts were at risk.
Energy companies have already asked the government to cancel any fines incurred for delayed repairs.
Grabchak told Reuters the ministry was looking for alternative part suppliers to replace those unable to fulfil their obligations because of the coronavirus shutdown. He said some plants were being inspected remotely by video.
General Electric and Siemens in Russia said they had enough staff and equipment to carry out most of their repairs and servicing in Russia.
But Siemens said staff have found it harder to travel because of lockdowns and other companies have also had access problems.
“In some regions our employees need to remain in quarantine for two weeks and can’t make it to the power stations,” a high-level manager at a Russian electricity company said, asking not to be named.
Russia’s nuclear power and hydro plants do not face the same challenges because they are less dependent on foreign equipment and specialists, industry sources said.
Additional reporting by Gleb Stolyarov and Rinat Sadgiev; writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Tom Balmforth; editing by Barbara Lewis
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