Photos and videos of thick black smoke coming out of the Zouk power plant went viral over social media amid an electricity outage.
Here is the reason behind the smoke:
Earlier in August, the caretaker Minister of Energy and Water, Walid Fayyad, revealed a solution that requires the use of grade B fuel stored in the Zouk and Jiyeh plants in order to generate energy again.
Accordingly, attention turned to the hydroelectric plants and their ability to support the production of the thermal plants and preserve the stability of the network if they were restarted with the “Grayed B” fuel.
This quantity was not used before because Grade B fuel oil is very low quality and doesn’t suit the burners. It was used in the past in Zouk before the plant was upgraded. The fuel is so heavy (i.e. high viscosity) that it doesn’t burn easily.
According to energy transition specialist Charbel Moussa, for proper combustion, Grade B fuel oil should be preheated to ~100°C to make it less viscous and easier to burn. Certainly, Grade B fuel wasn’t preheated in Zouk before being sent to the burners because how will they preheat it if they don’t have fuel to start with?
Grade B was sent directly to the burners, which couldn’t combust properly.
So unburnt fuel was being emitted through the chimneys causing the black thick smoke. This is very dangerous and a health hazard as people were not inhaling smoke but actual fuel particles.