Located on the Yalong river in the Sichuan Province of China, the Jinping I hydro project has the honour of featuring the highest dam currently under construction in the world. Once complete, the double curvature thin arch dam will stand 305m tall, providing a significant reservoir for flood control and allowing the project to generate 3600MW of electricity.

The project – scheduled to be fully commissioned by 2014 – is a key component of Chinese hydro firm Ertan Hydropower Development Company’s (EHDC) plans to exploit the 34.62GW hydro capacity that exists along the Yalong river in the form of 21 cascade schemes.

Playing a major role in this project is MWH, a global provider of environmental engineering, construction and strategic consulting services. In July this year, the company was selected by EHDC to provide engineering and construction management consulting services for Jinping I. As part of the contract, the company will be involved in construction quality control for the concrete construction of the dam, and will provide project and executive management training. MWH will also provide a full-time, on-site, concrete expert to assist with the planning, execution, quality assurance and quality control of the concrete dam.

The company was awarded the contract as a result of previous work carried out with EHDC. ‘We have worked together since the early 1980s and developed a strong and successful partnership,’ says Norman Bishop, MWH Vice President, Hydro Business Sector Leader, Director of International Engineering and Water Resources. ‘We worked with the company in a consulting capacity on the Ertan hydro power station, which was the very first hydroelectric project built on the Yalong and the country’s largest hydro project completed in the 20th century.’

Back in November 2002, MWH also provided dam design optimisation and geological assessment services for the Jinping I scheme, so were considered a natural partner for the new contract. ‘Our relationship allowed us to demonstrate we have the capabilities and know-how to work on such large schemes,’ says Bishop. ‘We have over 80 years experience of designing and constructing some of the world’s largest and most complex energy and power systems projects. We possess a concentration of hydro power project expertise that few other engineering firms can match.’

‘We also understand how different the working conditions can be in the country. A more collaborative approach is taken on projects in this region, as opposed to North American projects for example. These cultural issues and customs need to be respected and we understand that,’ he adds.

To illustrate this point, Bishop points out that the Jinping I scheme is the latest in a long line of projects the company has worked on in Asia.

‘This is definitely a large growth market,’ he says. ‘We have worked on a number of key projects in the region, including Three Gorges in China and Ghazi Barotha in Pakistan – and we’re also in the process of working on a number of new developments of varying sizes.’

Work in Pakistan

One of these new schemes is the 96MW Jinnah hydro power project, which is being developed by the Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA). The company was selected to provide construction management and contract administration services through a joint venture with local engineering companies.

The project, which broke ground in December 2006 and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2010, is part of a 25-year master plan to meet increasing energy demand being driven by rapid economic growth in Pakistan.

In its role on the project, MWH will complete a detailed review of the Jinnah engineering design and oversee procurement, construction, programming and quality assurance procedures. This includes quality control testing of construction materials and the final structures and components. In addition, MWH will monitor design and construction procedures to ensure they are completed correctly and comply with project specifications and local laws.

Located in the Punjab province, 234km southeast of Islamabad, the main components of the project include a headrace channel; a power house that houses eight low head pit turbines each producing 12MW of power; a tailrace channel; a 132kV double circuit transmission line; and a 132kV switchyard. The annual 688MkWh of energy the hydro power facility is expected to produce will be transported along a 5km transmission line to provide power to the national electric grid system. The project is being implemented under an EPC (engineer, procure, construct) contract awarded by WAPDA to Dongfang Electric Corporation, a Chinese contractor, for a total project cost of US $128M.

MWH has been a general consultant to Pakistan since 1959 and has carried out a variety of assignments in the development of water, land and energy resources during the past 25 years. In 1978, MWH was awarded a special medal by WAPDA, the first ever awarded to a consulting firm, in recognition of services to the country.

As general consultants, MWH assisted WAPDA with the engineering review and construction oversight of the Indus Water Treaty works, one of the largest water transfer projects ever undertaken. The project was the result of a settlement between India and Pakistan that required Pakistan’s three western rivers to be brought under control and their flows partially diverted to supply extensive irrigation systems previously fed by rivers that flow out of India. Accomplishing this replacement of flows required the construction of two major dams, five new barrages, a gated siphon, and eight new inner-river link canals. The total project cost was approximately US $2.25B.

In 2005, MWH served as consultants on the Ghazi Barotha hydroelectric project in the Northwest Frontier province of Pakistan (pictured). The US$2.25B project has a maximum capacity of 1450MW and was successfully commissioned last year.

‘As a result of working on such schemes we were able to see what areas the company could develop and how we could better meet client needs,’ says Bishop. ‘Today’s challenges for energy are broader and more complex than before – and we’ve worked to meet these challenges.’

Bishop suggest that balancing development with environmental resources is one of the key challenges for energy project developers, government agencies and lending institutions in Asia – and indeed throughout the rest of the world.

Major international lenders have adopted the Equator Principles, requiring strict management of environmental and social risks before financing large projects, and many multinational power producers are incorporating sustainable development into their business practices.

‘When it comes to energy, we have extensive hydro power engineering and environmental science capabilities,’ says Bishop, adding that the company is committed to delivering services tailored to the specific hydro power and water resource development needs of its clients and the communities they serve.

The company’s multidisciplinary staff of environmental experts is experienced in developing sound plans that protect endangered animal species, wetlands and aquatic habitats. Its services encompass all project phases including: asset management and planning; design, procurement and construction; programme management; site selection and permitting; financing; due diligence studies; turbine performance analysis and generator uprate studies; bid preparation; operation and management; and portfolio management and risk analysis service.

The company also has technical expertise in all aspects of concrete arch, gravity, roller-compacted concrete, earthfill and concrete faced rockfill dam analysis and design, as well as hydraulic structures, which is crucial in today’s marketplace where more and more companies are required to demonstrate experience in a multitude of engineering areas.


One area where the company is experiencing growth is in training: ‘MWH provides a continuous learning environment for our clients, by providing numerous educational opportunities in the classroom, on the job or in our offices – or all three,’ says Bishop.

Client training is often provided in conjunction with actual MWH contract work. Recognising the value of a multi-faceted approach, MWH employees stress hands-on training, along with a programme of self-study and outside reading. Training subjects include Executive Management Seminars (in conjunction with regional Universities), Project Management, and Technological updates. Technological training encompasses many subjects, such as: water and wastewater treatment; water resources; hydro power; dams; tunnels and underground; reservoir management; pumped storage; water conveyance; transmission and substations; project planning; construction management; safety; contract claims management; commissioning; and automated operations and maintenance systems.

Because different clients have different needs, effective training must be flexible, says Bishop. MWH trainers customise sessions to suit a specific or unique client issue, need or problem. Likewise, training can be done in short duration courses of three days to two weeks, or may last much longer.

‘Developing a trained and experienced staff takes time, particularly in the developing world,’ explains Bishop. ‘Our typical approach is to train local engineers and technicians – who often go on to become the permanent operations and maintenance staff – by allowing them to work with our experienced management and technical staff during the execution of actual project work.’

He adds: ‘This on-the-job training, obtained during project execution or during its commissioning, allows local specialists to learn while being closely supervised. Later, as their competence builds, they assume more responsibility in a supervised environment.’

With such key services on offer, it appears that MWH will continue to play a key role in the hydro power sector in Asia, while contributing to the development of hydro power and dams throughout other regions of the world.

View of the Guri project Guri View of Ghazi Barotha in Pakistan Ghazi Barotha Author Info:

For more information on the range of services offered by MWH, please visit www.mwhglobal.com