Long wait for Medupi power

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - LOUISE FLANA­GAN louise.flana­gan@inl.co.za

IT WILL be another five years be­fore Medupi power sta­tion is fully on­line.

Yes­ter­day, Eskom spokesman An­drew Etzinger said the first unit at Medupi would be syn­chro­nised by the end of the year, then the unit would pro­vide full out­put by April and be ready for com­mer­cial op­er­a­tion in about May.

“The to­tal sta­tion (all six units) will be in com­mer­cial op­er­a­tion by 2019,” said Etzinger.

He was com­ment­ing after the gov­ern­ment is­sued a brief­ing state­ment from the eco­nomic sec­tors, em­ploy­ment and in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment clus­ter yes­ter­day.

“The Medupi power sta­tion unit 6 syn­chro­ni­sa­tion is on track for the end of De­cem­ber 2014, with grid con­nec­tion and full op­er­a­tion pos­si­ble only around June 2015,” it said.

Eskom has pre­vi­ously said that Medupi’s unit 6 – the first unit due to be fin­ished at the new power sta­tion – would be syn­chro­nised to the grid on De­cem­ber 24.

The syn­chro­ni­sa­tion is not the same as be­ing com­mis­sioned to gen­er­ate power.

Eskom has avoided pro­vid­ing dates for the de­liv­ery of the rest of the Medupi units.

How­ever, yes­ter­day’s clus­ter brief­ing gave a hint in the brief­ing on wa­ter sup­ply.

“Projects to im­prove wa­ter sup­ply within the Water­berg area are reach­ing crit­i­cal mile­stones. The Mokolo and Crocodile River Wa­ter Aug­men­ta­tion Project (Phase 1) is at con­struc­tion phase. “De-bot­tle­neck­ing to im­prov­ing op­er­a­tional ef­fi­ciency by link­ing ex­ist­ing and new pipes has been achieved, thus in­creas­ing de­liv­ery by an ad­di­tional 57 per­cent of wa­ter.

“This will en­able Eskom to com­mis­sion four of its Medupi units and meet the fore­casted high-wa­ter-de­mand sce­nar­ios un­til De­cem­ber 2015,” said the clus­ter brief­ing.

Medupi is years be­hind sched­ule, and the de­lays have not helped the strain on the grid.

In late 2011, Eskom had ex­pected that Medupi’s first unit would have been com­mis­sioned dur­ing 2012, with the re­main­ing five units added at a rate of one ev­ery eight months un­til the en­tire power sta­tion was gen­er­at­ing power by next year.

BARELY two weeks after plung­ing the coun­try into dark­ness fol­low­ing the col­lapse of a coal stor­age silo at the Ma­juba power sta­tion in Mpumalanga, power util­ity Eskom warned yes­ter­day of a re­newed risk of load shed­ding, say­ing the power sys­tem was se­verely con­strained due to “un­fore­seen tech­ni­cal prob­lems” at power sta­tions.

Load shed­ding es­sen­tially means one area might be sup­plied with power and the other cut off in or­der to save the grid from to­tal col­lapse.

Eskom’s lat­est warn­ing co­in­cided with spec­u­la­tion that the re­main­ing coal stor­age silo at Ma­juba may have suf­fered a crack. Eskom de­nied this.

“The power sys­tem is se­verely con­strained to­day due to un­fore­seen tech­ni­cal prob­lems at power sta­tions. Should we ex­pe­ri­ence fur­ther tech­ni­cal prob­lems, we may need to im­ple­ment load shed­ding,” the power util­ity said.

Eskom called on con­sumers to ur­gently con­serve power.

Spokesman An­drew Etzinger said the tech­ni­cal prob­lems com­prised of a com­bi­na­tion of poor qual­ity coal de­liv­ered to cer­tain power sta­tions and the ef­fect of Ma­juba not be­ing back to full pro­duc­tion fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the silo.

He said some of the coal re­ceived “has higher ash con­tent and ham­pers the power sta­tions’ abil­ity to op­er­ate”.

Boiler-tube leaks at some power sta­tions also con­trib­uted to the lat­est is­sues.

“The lack of main­te­nance and re­fur­bish­ment at our power sta­tions be­cause of the need to gen­er­ate power has led to poor gen­er­a­tion ca­pac­ity,” Etzinger said.

Eskom de­clined to com­ment on what it called ru­mours of a crack in one of the re­main­ing coal stor­age si­los at its Ma­juba power sta­tion.

“The two re­main­ing coal si­los were emp­tied after the in­ci­dent and pre­pared for a thor­ough ex­am­i­na­tion,” Etzinger said, adding that once that ex­am­i­na­tion was con­cluded Eskom would an­nounce the re­sults.

In­spec­tions were be­ing con­ducted at all of Eskom si­los around the coun­try, he said. –

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