The many lives of a power plant

Rabai, Kenya

The many lives of a Kenyan power plant

Close to a decade has passed since Rabai Power Ltd began operation, but it still sets the standard for efficient and reliable power production in east Africa. A long line of CSR programmes meanwhile improve quality of life in the local community. 

The residents of Rabai joined the celebrations when BWSC inaugurated the Rabai Power Plant (RPL) in October 2009. 

Located 28 km from Mombasa, Kenya, RPL immediately began supplying a steady stream of energy to some 400,000 Kenyan households and businesses in the region. 


Effective contract October 2008
Project completion May 2010
Fuel HFO
Output 90 MWe
Engine supplier Wärtsilä
O&M 20 years

The opening celebration was just a snapshot, however, in the life of a power plant that has operated flawlessly for a decade and will continue supplying up to 90 MWe for another decade or so. 

In the following, we take a look at how BWSC has had many roles at Rabai: from securing financing and solving design challenges to providing operation and maintenance and promoting a number of corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes. 

Financing a bankable investment

Let’s start at the beginning. Before Rabai began delivering power. Before it was designed, built and commissioned. Let’s start with the funding. 

BWSC’s financial expertise made it possible to secure investors for Rabai and make sure that the multi-million dollar project could deliver returns for decades. At Rabai, we worked together with private investors as well as with development finance institutions to secure a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Kenya Power & Lighting Company Ltd. 

With a long-term PPA in place, Rabai’s bankability was guaranteed. As a result, Kenya’s public sector did not have to shoulder the massive investment linked to such a major infrastructure project. The deal had the spinoff effect of revitalising Kenya’s green field power scheme, which had been dormant for years. 

Carl Peter Andersen, head of financial engineering and Chairman of Rabai Power Ltd., explains: “By providing one point of contact, BWSC ensured a seamless process that saved time and money. We could address commercial and technical issues as they arose and secure a seamless process that made the project bankable.”

By providing one point of contact, BWSC ensured a seamless process that saved time and money.

Carl Peter Andersen, General Manager, Financial Engineering and Chairman of Rabai Power Ltd.

Engineering a state-of-the-art power plant

With the financing in place, BWSC’s engineers could undertake the hands-on work of building and contracting the actual power plant. 

When our engineers design an engine-based power plant, they seek out the market’s most efficient technology. At Rabai, they implemented a so-called combined cycle diesel concept that recovers waste heat from the plant’s five engines. 

This recovered heat energy is used to produce steam for driving a steam turbine generator, boosting the plant’s overall efficiency by six percent, and thus making Rabai Kenya’s most efficient thermal power plant.

With 90 MWe of capacity, RPL made it possible to phase out less efficient plants and back-up generators. So although power production increased, emissions were actually reduced.  


Creating an on-site culture

Rabai’s construction created hundreds of jobs, but once a power plant is completed, the daily work begins of making sure RPL’s machinery and systems are working at maximum efficiency for its service life. 

At Rabai, BWSC is also responsible for the operations and maintenance (O&M) team, with roughly a third of the 50 employees coming from the local vicinity. 

Mugo Mwai joined the plant in its first year of operation. He started in a junior position but his potential was discovered and he was quickly promoted to fuel manager. He is responsible for overseeing daily deliveries for Rabai’s five Wärtsilä engines (see box). 

“Working at the power plant has been a blessing to me,” says Mugo. “I’ve learned and benefited a lot from the company’s sponsored seminars and trainings. For example in 2011, BWSC invited three colleagues and me to attend an O&M seminar for technical site key personnel in Demark which was also attended by other O&M personnel from other BWSC power plants.”

Promoting and developing the staff has been a key goal over the years for Rabai Operation & Maintenance (ROML). 

The operation manager, Alex Odoch, has likewise been sent abroad for training of staff in boiler operation.

If employees show the right attitude, there are opportunities to grow, explains Lars Kjær Olesen, the former plant manager.

“We’ve created a culture at Rabai, where the team is encouraged to think critically and take responsibility,” says Lars.

Søren Hubert Petersen, the plant manager as of 2018, notes that the knowledge exchange goes both ways. 

For example, Rabai’s Procurement and Logistic Manager, Raphael Bosso, will visit BWSC in April 2019 to exchange experiences with relevant colleagues and departments. 

“In this way, we continue to fertilise and nurse the BWSC culture and promote a proactive approach as well,” says Søren.    

The BWSC approach to O&M appears to be paying dividends. Annual capacity tests reveal that RPL is still able to operate above contracted capacity after nearly a decade of operation. Rabai’s O&M contract includes conducting major overhauls with support from BWSC’s headquarters in Denmark, the power plant features top of the line updates. 

In 2017, for example, the 55-metre high smokestacks were redesigned and replaced using specialists based in Denmark combined with local support from ROML and local contractors. 

The three pillars of Rabai

RPL’s positive effects go beyond the power plant’s fence perimeter too. 

Every year, the plant’s board meets to allocate CSR funds for programmes that improve health, education, water – the so-called ‘three pillars of Rabai’. 
The programmes have already had far-reaching benefits for the local population. In the past, the local health facility was unable to conduct even basic laboratory tests. So RPL added a standard diagnostic laboratory for the facility, which has immensely contributed to improving the general health status of the Rabai community. 

An extension with a 20 bed capacity was also built, which fast-tracked the centre for hospital status and qualified it for additional funding from the government. The effect was immediately felt, since in the past, locals had to travel over 20 kilometres to the nearest hospital.

Another health initiative involves printing and distributing ‘The Hiding Hyena’, a booklet that raises young people’s awareness about the spread of HIV. The board printed and distributed 2,500 copies. Other sponsors and stakeholders have joined the project to help with distribution. 

A scholarship programme meanwhile helps promising students with their expenses for secondary school. Since its inception in 2012, some 45 students have been sponsored. 

Due to scarce water resources, RPL continues to provide clean water to the Rabai community through the community water point. And 15% of the plant’s water consumption is reserved for the community’s domestic and animal use at no cost. 
CSR programmes. O&M. Engineering and financing. BWSC has been present at Rabai from its beginnings. And we’ll make sure it operates well throughout its service life, bringing benefits to the people in the community. 


A standout workplace

Mugo Mwai was hired at Rabai’s opening and rose through the ranks to become fuel manager. As part of his job, he created a programme, so RPL operators can instantly determine the quality and quantity of fuel received from 2009 to the current date. 

Over the years, he and his team have unloaded close to 30,000 tankers without an accident that interrupted work.

Because of his experience and contributions, Mugo was asked to hold seminars and train locals at the recently completed Kayes power plant in Mali, another BWSC project. 

How important is Rabai for the local community?  
Rabai Power Plant means a lot to the Rabai community. It offers employment to a good number from the community, and the CSR programmes make a positive difference.

What do you like best about your job?
On a normal day, I interact and supervise between 15-24 different people who deliver fuel to the plant. So I have learned to be a team leader with a strong safety culture and a proactive attitude. 

Tell us about what it was like to conduct seminars for fuel management in Mali.
It’s a humbling experience to have an opportunity to share my knowledge and experience with others. For me, the fuel department is all about quality and quantity control, safety and environment protection as well as speed in unloading. It’s important to be alert all the time when receiving fuel to ensure the quality and the quantity of the fuel being delivered is in order.

Independent power producer

Operation and maintenance