Sarawak Energy Marks Major Project Milestone for Baleh HEP

Sarawak’s Renewable Hydropower Capacity Advances with Successful Completion of Diversion Tunnels, River Diversion and Closure

21 NOVEMBER 2020

Sarawak Energy’s largest hydropower project to date, the 1,285MW Baleh Hydroelectric Project (HEP) has reached a major project milestone with the successful completion of its dual diversion tunnels, river diversion and closure works in October.

A blessing or ‘miring’ ceremony was organised at the request of the local communities on Wednesday to mark the safe completion of this critical package of the project. It was a collaboration between the Baleh HEP team and the community leaders with support from Kapit Resident and Bukit Mabong District Offices.

Community leader Penghulu Jampi Rawing together with the other Tuai Rumahs (headmen) of both the directly and indirectly affected communities conducted the ‘miring’ ritual at three locations at site namely the right and left banks at the upper stream of the cofferdam and in the centre area.

The ceremony was also witnessed by Nyurak Keti, Resident Kapit, Douglas Pungga Anak Lawang, Bukit Mabong District Officer, representatives from the local Government and Sarawak Rivers Board among others. The number of attendees was kept at a minimum as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 infection.

The completion of diversion tunnels, river diversion and closure is part of the Baleh project’s six work packages.

Measuring over a length of 1.2KM, the dual concrete-lined diversion tunnels running parallel to each other to enable river diversion activities, are now fully functional.

Sarawak’s Minister for Utilities Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi anak Utom congratulated Sarawak Energy and commended the Baleh project team and the Contractors for their continued focus in achieving the milestone despite multiple challenges at the project site and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Baleh HEP is one of Sarawak’s largest State infrastructure projects and Sarawak Energy’s largest hydropower project so far. The project is crucial towards securing the energy capacity needed for Sarawak’s future growth and development and will support the State’s ambition of achieving high income status by 2030 in providing renewable hydropower for our growth,” Rundi said.

“During my visit in July, I was able to see the immense scale of the project. At peak, the project is expected to employ some 3,000 people. I look forward to seeing Sarawak Energy reach future target milestones with the Government’s support,” he said.

Sarawak Energy Group Chief Executive Officer Datu Haji Sharbini Suhaili thanked the Sarawak Government and community for their support that has enabled the corporation to meet its delivery targets.

“The Baleh HEP will contribute towards maintaining Sarawak Energy’s status as Malaysia’s largest renewable energy provider. The project involves multiple stakeholders with different needs. In balancing these, support from the Government and community has been crucial so that we can meet our completion target of the diversion tunnels for river diversion. This is critical towards meeting the current commissioning target of Baleh HEP by 2026.

“On behalf of Sarawak Energy, I would like to express my appreciation to all who made this possible especially the Minister for Utilities, State Disaster Management Committee, Kapit’s Resident Office, District Office Bukit Mabong, Land and Survey Sarawak, Natural Resources Environmental Board, Sarawak Rivers Board, as well as the communities of Baleh and Kapit among many others,” Sharbini added.

Earlier in September, Executive Vice President for Project Delivery, Ir Pramod Kumar Karunakaran led the Baleh project team and its partner Contractors in marking and assessing the readiness of the diversion tunnels for river diversion works during the Health, Safety, Security and Environment (HSSE) Week for Baleh HEP.

He explained, “With the simultaneous completion of our diversion tunnels as well as upstream cofferdam construction in October, we were able to effect the river diversion to enable the construction of the main dam. The river flow was then diverted through the diversion tunnels to enable closure for a stretch of the upper Batang Baleh. The water retained within the main dam area will be drained to create a dry working environment so that main dam construction works can be carried out safely.”

The river diversion and closure works for Baleh HEP commenced on 1 October 2020 and were successfully completed on 16 October 2020. The construction for closure berm or rock layer built across the upper Batang Baleh will continue to a safe design elevation level of 71m in a month’s time. Once completed, main dam construction will begin.

Communities who use the river are still able to commute downstream and upstream of the closed area via an alternative by-pass road connecting the two closed-off sections by Sarawak Energy. Rest houses located on the opposite banks of the diversion tunnels have been built with boat landing facilities. In addition, trailers have been made available as an option for river users who prefer to use their own boats.

Ir Pramod also emphasised the importance of safety in project delivery especially for a large-scale project like the Baleh HEP.

“I am truly grateful that with the close collaboration between our project team and Contractors, as well as the support from all stakeholders, we have been able to overcome any obstacles to deliver our targets timely and safely,” he added.

When fully commissioned in 2026, Baleh HEP will join Sarawak’s stable of hydropower plants that includes Batang Ai, Murum and Bakun to support Sarawak’s aspiration to become a regional powerhouse of renewable and affordable energy.

Diversion tunnels are now completed and fully functional.

Completion of river closure, with construction of rock layer to continue to a safe design elevation level of 71m.

Assessing and marking the readiness of diversion tunnels for river diversion works during Baleh HEP HSSE Week in September 2020.

The miring ceremony was held on Wednesday, 18 November 2020, to mark the safe completion of a critical package of the project which is the construction of the diversion tunnels and the river diversion.

Group Chief Executive Officer, Datu Haji Sharbini Suhaili

Executive Vice President for Project Delivery, Ir Pramod Kumar Karunakaran