Chimtala Substation, Afghanistan

A terminal link of Afghanistan’s North East Power System (NEPS), the Chimtala substation is an infrastructure project funded by India as part of its assistance package to the Afghanistan Government. Located near Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, the substation imports power from Uzbekistan to Kabul.

The 220/110/20kV substation supplies additional power from the 220kV Pul-e-Khumri to Kabul double circuit (DC) transmission line. Passing over the Salang Range at an altitude of 3,800m, the transmission line is 202km long.

The substation was built by Power Grid Corporation of India (Powergrid), a Government of India enterprise under the Ministry of Power. Regarded as a milestone in development and reconstruction of Afghanistan, the substation has been built with the goal of “Light Kabul”.

Construction of the Chimtala substation began in 2005 and was completed in 2009. The project cost INR4,050m (approximately $83m), less than the initially estimated INR4,780m.

Two more substations have been committed to be built by India for local electricity distribution in Afghanistan, at Charikar and Doshi.

Completion and inauguration

Under the leadership of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Energy and Water, Powergrid implemented the project with the help of experts from the World Bank, USAID, ADB, ABB, SMEC International and Westhaus.

“Construction of the Chimtala substation began in 2005 and was completed in 2009.”

The DC transmission line was opened on 21 January 2009, while the substation was inaugurated on 18 May 2009. The project took approximately four years to complete.

The substation was inaugurated by Hameed Karzai, the president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in the presence of I C P Keshari, joint secretary, Government of India, Ministry of Power; Powergrid chief managing director S K Chaturvedi; and senior officials of the Afghanistan Government.

Capacity and transmission

The Chimtala substation houses two 160MVA transformers of 220/110kV and three 40MVA transformers of 110/20/15kV. The 220kV and 110kV sides have ten bays each while the 20kV side has 15 bays.

The 40MW of power flowing through the substation will increase to 150MW with imports from Uzbekistan. However, the substation has been designed for a capacity of 300MW for future requirements.

Substation construction

Civil infrastructure including a control room building, switchyards, a stores building, a fire fighting pump house and a residential/ township area with roads and drainage have been built at the site by Powergrid.

The enterprise has also established an optical fibre communication link between Pul-e-Khumri substation and Chimtala substation. The Ministry of Energy & Water, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan awarded an INR18m contract to Powergrid for procuring optical ground wire (OPGW) for the line.

Powergrid faced a major challenge in moving heavy materials such as 80MT transformers to the substation, as the normal route was not conducive for transportation. It is the first time that a heavy aircraft was employed to airlift transformers, Powergrid says. The enterprise has trained 20 Afghan employees at the Chimtala substation site.

“It is the first time that a heavy aircraft was employed to airlift transformers.”

Pul-e-Khumri to Kabul transmission line

The Pul-e-Khumri to Kabul transmission line in Afghanistan is a 202km-long double-circuit line which is funded by the Government of India under its assistance package for power generation and transmission in Afghanistan. The transmission line’s construction was started in 2005 when the construction of Chimtala substation was also planned.

The transmission line is supported by 613 towers and passes through a heavy snow zone. The towers were built under harsh weather and daunting logistical challenges in difficult terrain.

Chimtala replication project

The Asian Development Bank (ADB), in a report published in November 2008, indicated that the Chimtala substation will need to be expanded from the current 320MVA. The bank opined that an additional 160MVA would be sufficient to remove the system’s bottlenecks in the medium term.

The ADB has included a replication project in its Tranche 3 projects, estimated to cost $35m.