Sampur power station

From Global Energy Monitor
This article is part of the CoalSwarm coverage of Sri Lanka and coal
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The Sampur power station (also known as the Trincomalee Coal Power Station) was a proposed 500-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power station proposed at Sampur, Trincomalee in Sri Lanka. There was also discussion for two additional phases at the power station, known as Sampur-2. The project was cancelled in September 2016.[1]

In June 2019 the Sri Lanka Cabinet floated a new draft energy plan that called for two new 300 MW units in Trincomalee,[2] known as the Foul Point power station.[3]


The undated satellite photo below shows the proposed construction location for the plant in Sampur.

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In June 2005 the National Thermal Power Corporation, an Indian electricity generation company, announced that they planned to "submit a proposal to the Government of Sri Lanka to set up a 900 MW Coal/LNG based Power Project in Sri Lanka on Build, Own, Operate (BOO) / Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) basis."[4]

In late December 2006 NTPC announced that the proposed project had been reduced to a 500MW station and that the fuel would be coal only. The company said it "will be signing on 29th December 2006 a Memorandum of Agreement with Government of Sri Lanka and Ceylon Electricity Board for development of a 2X250 MW Coal based Power Project at Trincomalee in Sri Lanka. The project would be developed through a joint venture company between NTPC and Ceylon Electricity Board."[5]

In September 2011, the Sri Lanka Ministry of Power and Energy reaffirmed that the original plan of developing the Sampur coal power project up to 3,600 megawatt in several stages had been curtailed and limited to 500 megawatts. Construction was said to begin in 2012, and the power generation linked to the national grid in 2017. The joint venture will cost US$ 500 million.[6]

In October 2013 the Ceylon Electricity Board released a long-range power study in which it described the Sampur power station as "non committed." It described the status of the project as follows:

"Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and Government of India (GOI) entered into an Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to develop a coal power plant in Trincomalee as a joint venture between Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and NTPC of India. The initial plant capacity will be 2x250 MW and the MOA has provision for extension up to total 1000 MW. Finalization of negotiations is ongoing in this regard."[7]

In February 2014 Sri Lanka Power and Energy Ministry Secretary M.M.C. Ferdinando urged CEB to complete the project by 2017 to meet the country's electricity demand.[8]

The Power Purchase Agreement, Implementation Agreement, BOI Agreement, Land Lease Agreement and Coal Supply Agreement were signed on 7 October 2013 by relevant parties including the Government of Sri Lanka, the Ceylon Electricity Board and the Trincomalee Power Company Limited.[9] The project is expected to be commissioned in July 2016.[10]

In February 2015 it was reported that a feasibility report on the coal project would be handed over to the Sri Lankan Power and Energy Ministry soon, with construction on a 500 MW coal plant planned to start by the end of the year. Plans also include a transmission line to connect the electricity grids of India and Sri Lanka. India will offer a line of credit of US$200 million to Sri Lanka for the joint venture project.[11]

In September 2015 the Sunday Leader reported that the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) would lose more than US$135 million if they continued the work of Sampur power station, as they would not be in a position to start its commercial operations before 2020. The publication also reported ongoing problems with resettlement, and disagreements between the governments of India and Sri Lanka over plant technology and costs. It is stated the plant would possibly be funded by Japan through JICA, rather than India.[12]

In February 2016 the project received the environment approval. Construction on the first and second phase (250 MW each) was to be commenced within the next few months. The power station is expected to come online in late 2017. There were reports of India exerting pressure on Sri Lanka to expedite its work despite ongoing opposition from Sampur villagers.[13]

In June 2016, Environmental Foundation (Guarantee) Limited (EFL) filed a Fundamental Rights (FR) application in the Supreme Court against the proposed plant, arguing the Central Environmental Authority approved the environmental impact assessment for the plant even though an earlier court ruling had revoked the designation of the area as a Special Zone for Heavy Industries.[14]

Environmental approval and studies to use natural gas rather than coal

Following public protests against the plant, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Management (CEM) said in May 2016 that it would conduct feasibility studies to set up Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plants in Sampur as a possible alternative to the project. CEM said, in the interim, all activities related to the coal plant would be suspended, including tenders that have already been called. However, officials at the Trincomalee Power Company Limited said that work on the proposed coal power plant was proceeding uninterrupted.[15] In June 2016 it was reported that work on the coal plant had stopped, but Indian officials were opposing the move to LNG, saying it'd be costlier. Details of the final plant proposal were still being negotiated.[16]

Sampur-2, Phases I and II

The July 2015 CEB report on electricity in Sri Lanka from 2015-2034 laid out plans for a Sampur-2 plant, referred to as Trincomalee-2, phase I and II. Phase I would be two 300 MW plants, commissioned in 2022. Phase II would be another two 300 MW plants, commissioned in 2029-2030.[17]

In March 2015 it was reported that a public hearing on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for Trincomalee-2 of 500 MW (2 x 250 MW) was underway. It would also be a joint venture between NTPC and Ceylon Electricity Board, but funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The total estimated cost is US$512 million.[18]

Displacement of local residents

The Tamil National Alliance charged that the homes of several thousand Tamil civilians had been razed to make room for the project, and that the vast majority of those people remained displaced. Residents were denied access to 2,795 acres of land demarcated for the project. Deputy Minister of Resettlement Vinayagamurthi Muralitharan said that approximately 2,200 people from Sampur remained in welfare centers. According to Muralitharan, some funds had been provided by the government to create resettlement villages in Kombavil, including health centers and schools.[19]

According to People’s Alliance for Right to Land (PARL) -- a group of local residents concerned about land rights in the country -- an area of 5,000 hectares has been cordoned off by the Navy as a High Security Zone to construct the coal power plant and establish a Special Economic Zone. Entrance to the area has been prohibited and is under the control of the Navy. Over 7,200 people had been residing in the area.[20]

According to PARL: "A notice has been displayed at the Muththur Divisional Secretariat Office stating that people who had been residing in the area appropriated for the high security zone will receive a compensation of Rs. 250,000 to settle in another place upon submission of the deeds." PARL claims the actions were undertaken in violations of several environmental laws.[20]

In August 2015 President Sirisena handed over lands deeds to 25 of the 1272 families displaced from Sampur in 2006, at the start of Eelam War IV. It was reported that the returnees are worried about the environmental impact of the 500 MW Sampur plant. According to one returnee: “This is an agricultural area with 30 to 40 irrigation tanks. A coal-based power plant will spoil the atmosphere. We have requested India to shift it and provide us facilities for agricultural, small scale industrial and tourism development."[21]

NTPC and relations with India

The project is a joint venture between the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and India's National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC).

According to the Sunday Leader, the terms of the project were shrouded in secrecy and, when revealed, were unfavorable to the people of Sri Lanka: the efficiency of the power station was downgraded and the total capital costs of the plant left blank, raising electricity costs and allowing NTPC to charge CEB more for the project.[22]

Additionally, the contract allowed NTPC to maintain operational control, rather than hand over control to CEB: "if for some reason NTPC has to hand over control of the plant mid way to the CEB, the contracts are designed in a way that the CEB will have to purchase the shares at a colossal amount from them."[22]

In March 2014 the India High Commissioner suggested that power from the station could be exported to India, as part of an interconnected grid.[23]

Proposed jetty cancelled

Gateway Industries of Sri Lanka was given land to build a heavy industrial zone in Sampur around the proposed coal plant. Plans included the development of a deep-water jetty and a coal-stockpiling yard for blending and transshipment. On May 7, 2015, the land grant - given under the State Lands Ordinance - was cancelled by a presidential order, with the land to be released for resettlement of refugees. The cancellation was upheld by the Supreme Court in July 2015.[24]

Project cancelled

In September 2016, the Attorney General informed the Supreme Court that the plant will not be constructed. The decision was taken by the Ministry of Power and Energy. The Environmental Foundation (Guarantee) Limited had filed a Fundamental Rights application in the Supreme Court objecting to the use of coal for the project.[1]

Project revived for Foul Point

In June 2019 the Sri Lanka Cabinet floated a new draft energy plan that called for two new 300 MW units in Trincomalee,[25] the Foul Point power station.[26]

Project Details of Sampur power station

  • Sponsor: Trincomalee Power Company
  • Parent: Joint venture between Ceylon Electricity Board and NTPC
  • Location: Sampur, Trincomalee district
  • Coordinates: 8.486111, 81.3 (exact)
  • Status: Cancelled
  • Gross Capacity: 500 MW (Units 1&2: 250 MW), with possible extension by an additional 2x250 MW and 2x300 MW
  • Type:
  • Projected in service:
  • Coal Type:
  • Coal Source:  
  • Source of financing: India and/or Japan International Cooperation Agency

Articles and resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 "SC informed coal power plant will not be in Sampur," Colombo Gazette, September 13, 2016
  2. "Cabinet approves four coal power plants, moves to reduce PUCSL’s authority," Sunday Times, June 23, 2019
  3. "Environment at risk: Multiple coal power projects proposed," The Sunday Morning, October 6, 2019
  4. National Thermal Power Corporation, "Announcements 2005-06," National Thermal Power Corporation website, accessed June 2010
  5. National Thermal Power Corporation, "Announcements 2006-07," National Thermal Power Corporation website, accessed June 2010
  6. "Sri Lanka government to proceed with Sampur coal power plant despite doubts," ColomboPage News Desk, September 3, 2011
  7. "Long Term Generation Expansion Plan 2013-2032," Ceylon Electricity Board, October 2013, page 4-11
  8. "CEB urged to speed up Sampur coal power plant," Sunday Island, February 6, 2014
  9. "Portfolio-Sampoor Coal Power Plant (2x250 MW)". Ministry of Power and Energy of Sri Lanka. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  10. "Development Programmes-Major Projects-Trincomalee Coal Power Project". Ceylon Electricity Board. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
  11. "Shelved Power Projects in Sri Lanka Could Be Revived," Energy Net, February 24, 2015
  12. "CEB In A Quandary," Sunday Leader, September 5, 2015
  13. "Sampur power plant receives environment approval; construction soon: Power Min.," LBO, February 19, 2016
  14. Ifham Nizam, "FR Filed Against Coal Power Project," The Sunday Leader, undated
  15. "Sri Lanka may shelve Sampur coal power plant project - Report," Colombo Page, May 15, 2016
  16. "India, Lanka Officials Yet To Discuss Change Of Fuel In Sampoor Power Plant," Indian Express, June 1, 2016
  17. "Long Term Generation Expansion Plan 2015-2034," Ceylon Electricity Board, July 2015, page E-5
  18. "Japanese coal-fired power plant to be built in Sampur," Sunday Island, March 12, 2015
  19. Bandula Sirimanna, "Sampur coal power project to proceed under Indian pressure," Sunday Times, February 5, 2012
  20. 20.0 20.1 "Sampur coal power project and special economic zone," PARL, accessed March 2014
  21. "Getting Back Sampur Lands A Very Big Achievement," The New Indian Express, August 23, 2015
  22. 22.0 22.1 "Sampur: The Battle For Energy," The Sunday Leader, July 21, 2013
  23. "Geneva Trap And Sampur Carrot," The Sunday Leader, March 2, 2014
  24. "SC upholds DSG’s assertion: Nobody can challenge presidential gazettes," Sunday Times, July 12, 2015
  25. "Cabinet approves four coal power plants, moves to reduce PUCSL’s authority," Sunday Times, June 23, 2019
  26. "Environment at risk: Multiple coal power projects proposed," The Sunday Morning, October 6, 2019

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