Shajiao B power station


Duration:2 years

Cost:$318m ($538m today)

Country: China

What did this project achieve?

Build a coal-fired power station to serve Guangdong province, China

The Shajiao B power station is in Guangdong province, China. With a generating capacity of 750MW, the coal-fired plant is one of three at the Shajiao power complex.

The scheme is seen as a landmark energy project, as it was built in less than two years.

Shajiao B was one of the first private enterprise schemes in China. Finance for the project was raised by Hong Kong entrepreneur Gordon Wu.

Wu was planning a 1,200-room hotel in Guangzhou – the first in China to be built with outside funds – when he discovered the development would be taking 2% of the total power capacity of the province.

The businessman was already aware of the region’s power problems - electricity was often shut off for three days a week because of supply shortages.

Wu was keen to make sure his new hotel would have electricity to look after its guests. He also saw a business opportunity – prompting him to come up with the idea of a build-operate-transfer power station. This meant the facility would be built - and initially run - by the private sector and later handed over to the state.

The entrepreneur raised $318m from 46 banks in 11 countries for the scheme.

Materials and expertise for the project were equally international. Steel came from Hong Kong and boilers came from Japan. Design work was carried out in London and Japan.

Difference the project has made

Shajiao B helped meet the increasing demand for power in one of China’s special economic zones – one of the key areas supporting the country’s continued expansion.

The station helped reduce power blackouts and energy rationing in Guangdong province.

The private finance deal helped pave the way for further investment in China.

How the work was done

Shajiao B was built as part of a coal-fired power station development near the Pearl River estuary. The site was chosen as the river could be used to transport coal. River water was used to cool the plant.

Early work saw engineers levelling the chosen site – which was on a slope – and forming a reclaimed area alongside it.

Plans to mine the hill, pack it with explosives and bring down a million cubic metres of rock with a single explosion were abandoned in favour of a more controlled blasting programme.

Engineers chose concrete for much of the scheme, as the steel industry in China didn’t produce enough to meet construction needs.

Start dates for new parts of the project were often chosen from a ‘Lucky Book’. Certain days and times of day are considered fortunate by the Chinese.

A traditional ‘bai-sun’ ceremony – with workers setting off firecrackers – often marked the start of a new piece of work.


[The construction of] Shajiao B power station… still challenges the best fast-track operations anywhere in the world

ICE member D Head

who worked on the Shajiao B project. From his paper on the design and construction of the scheme, published by ICE in 1994

Fascinating facts

Workers excavated 2.2m cubic metres of earth constructing the power station. Another 1.9m cubic metres of material were dredged for the scheme.

170,000m³ of concrete and 62,000 tons of cement were used to build the station.

3,600 tons of structural steelwork went into the project.

People who made it happen

  • Designer: Arup
  • Construction engineers: Costain


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