Murum hydropower project – independent dam safety engineer

Client: Ministry of Public Utilities, Sarawak
Location: Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
Date: October 2012 – December 2015

Providing an independent assessment of dam safety to ensure the necessary actions to enable safe impoundment.

Background

Murum Dam is a 146m-high roller-compacted concrete (RCC) dam in Sarawak, Malaysia; part of the 944 MW Murum Hydropower Project.  The Ministry of Public Utilities, Sarawak, was the regulating body providing approval for impoundment to commence.  As the Ministry had no dam engineering expertise, it employed an independent dam safety consultant to advise on the dam’s readiness to impound. The client was not looking for a checking engineer for the detailed design of this project, but for an independent engineer to provide a holistic assessment of the dam from a dam safety perspective.

Solution

Entura was the independent dam safety engineer, with involvement pre-impoundment, during impoundment and post-impoundment. To focus attention on what was important, a risk framework was adopted to identify key dam safety issues to be addressed prior to impoundment. This framework provided a system for identifying and prioritising the key activities that needed to occur prior to impoundment. This required a detailed review of all design and construction documentation, detailed site inspection, identification of potential failure mechanisms, and their likelihood and consequence should they occur. Identified key activities were tracked until a point of readiness to impound was achieved. Less critical items were also tracked, but were not a condition for impoundment.

Outcome

The process adopted was transparent and defensible; and provided a reasoned approach for which items must be completed prior to impoundment. This process provided the Ministry with the assurance that the important elements from a dam safety perspective had been addressed prior to impoundment commencing. It also focused effort on the activities which were important prior to impoundment – whether the completion of specific works, the availability of key instrumentation to monitor the dam’s performance, the availability and operation of key dam safety systems, or the appropriate emergency preparedness should a safety incident occur during filling.

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