Two big cooling towers and one lofty white chimney can be seen among a plethora of industrial machinery and hundreds of workers are busy working at Port Qasim Coal-fired power plant under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Pakistan's southern port of Karachi.
This 1,320-MW project, which is one of the 21 energy cooperation projects under the CPEC, is the first coal-fired power plant being constructed under the CPEC in Pakistan.
The 2.08-billion-U.S. dollar project, located some 37 km in the southeast of Karachi on the coastline of Arabian seas, ranks top among the priority implementation projects or early harvest projects in the energy sector being developed under the CPEC.
The Power Construction Corporation of China through its subsidiary PowerChina Resources Limited and Al Mirqab Capital, an investment company controlled by Qatar's royal family, hold 51 percent and 49 percent of the project's shares respectively on a Build-Own-Operate (BOO) basis, that was also partially financed by the Export-Import Bank of China.
Once the plant, controlled by the Port Qasim Electric Power Company (Private) Limited, is completed and starts production, it will cut Pakistan's current power shortfall by almost 20 percent and will not only ease daily life but also create hundreds of thousands of jobs by helping restart the industries that were closed due to power shortage.
According to statistics from the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA), Pakistan is facing a shortfall of 6,000 MW of electricity with an average demand of over 22,000 MW in the summer season.
During the peak of summer, the duration of load-shedding in urban areas including the country's capital of Islamabad is 12 to 14 hours while in rural areas the duration is from 16 to 20 hours causing an unrest among the masses who often hit the streets to protest against load shedding.
The project's average annual energy output will be around 9,000 Gigawatts which is enough power to support 4 million families' power consumption for a year.
The work on the project site began on May 21 last year after Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif performed the ground breaking ceremony.
The project was originally planned to be completed over a period of three years, but the first 660-MW unit will be completed by the end of next year and the second 660-MW unit will be finished in March 2018, five and two months ahead of the original deadlines respectively.
Around 1,600 Pakistani workers and almost the same number of Chinese engineers and workers, who have been working 24 hours on the site in two shifts, have completed 130 percent of the work that was planned to be completed by the end of June.
The project has directly created more than 1,500 job opportunities for Pakistani workers and will employ more during the peak of the construction phase, while it will also employ around 200 Chinese and between 200-300 Pakistani trained professionals during the operational stage.
A 35-year-old welder, Nadeem, who hails from the country's eastern city of Lahore, while talking to Xinhua recently, said "I had been doing welding work for last 12 years, but had no permanent income source."
"Five months ago, I joined this project and I am delighted now I can earn enough regularly to support my family. I am so happy now and will continue my work here," he said.
Both of the production units will be fueled by imported coal from Indonesia, Australia and Africa, for which a company has already been established in Singapore. A pier with a capacity of 50,000 tons coal storage is being built at the site that could be extended to 70,000 tons capacity.
"The project adopts the world's leading supercritical thermal technology and will also follow environment-friendly operations including seawater desalination and flue gas desulfurization," said Wu Xianing, assistant to the General Manager of the project.
The basic infrastructure work has almost been completed at the 200-acre project and now production equipment is being raised.
At least 40 meters out of the 162.6 meters of the first concrete- and steel-made cooling tower and 10-meter of the second cooling tower have been constructed, while 150 meters out of the total 195-meter chimney has also been built.
After the approval from NEPRA, the Pakistan government will purchase the electricity from the plants at an upfront tariff of 8.12 U.S. cents per unit for 30 years.
Out of the total investment of 46 billion U.S. dollars under the CPEC, China will invest 34 billion U.S. dollars solely in Pakistan's energy sector.
In addition to the Port Qasim Coal-fired power plant, many other electricity-producing projects are under construction or being planned in different parts of Pakistan that would add surplus electricity to its national grid in the coming years.