(Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

Three crude-oil pipelines erupted following explosions near the 676-MW Bayji Electricity Plant north of Baghdad Tuesday morning. Heat rising from the sea of blazing oil melted the high-voltage transmission line nearly 300 ft above, causing the 5,000-MW national grid to short-circuit. "The severed circuit caused a sudden power loss of 750 MW within one second," writes Mitchell Frazier, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers team working with the Electricity Ministry to restore the nation's electric system, via e-mail from Baghdad. "This sudden loss of power created an imbalance of power from the grid and neighboring substations....Mr. Ahmad (technical manager of the gas turbines at Bayji) stated the current grid system cannot handle or support the high voltage and drastic change of power."


The emergency response by the ministry is the first since the Coalition Provisional Authority transferred sovereignty to the interim Iraqi Government at the end of June. The move to quickly restore the nation's electricity came as temperatures cooled in the past week and demand on the national grid slacked off. Thursday most of Iraq was powered with at least 16 hours of electricity, according to the Corps of Engineers. Some areas received upwards of 20 to 24 hours of service. The Corps previously reported that the Electricity Ministry directed that Najaf was to receive 24-hour electric service following the cessation of fighting by the Mahdi Army militia of Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr in that city.

Iraqi and U.S. engineers have brought three rehabilitated generators and one new generator online this month, adding 47 MW to the grid. Last month, seven generators were brought online, adding 202 MW. Since July 1, available generation has increased by about 400 MW, says Frazier. The goal is to add 1,000 MW by the end of the year.

Security at the attack site was increased with soldiers from the Iraqi National Guard.

400-kV transmission line near Bayji, Iraq, has been restored to service after being severed Sept. 14 in a morning attack on a nearby oil pipeline. The loss of the line knocked out power to most of the country, but redundancy in the transmission system allowed the Ministry of Electricity to begin restoring electric service within hours of the 2:00 a.m. attack. By Tuesday night, Sept. 14, 85% of the country's service had been restored. The grid was stabilized Thursday night.