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Jun 30, 2006

On-The-Air (30/06/2006)

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© Reuse this Every Friday morning, SAfm's AMLive's radio anchor John Perlman speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday's At the Coalface transcript:

Perlman: We have talked a lot about power provision - two new peaking power stations to be built at the coast by October 2008. Interestingly it is not Eskom doing it.

Creamer: Yes, the two new peaking power stations that are due to be built on the coast will not be built, owned and operated by Eskom, as we have become accustomed to, but these will be owned by the private-sector. Enter the acronym IPP, Independent Power Producer, which is now coming in on the scene. IPP is still on a very moderate scale, of course, but significantly five international companies have been prequalified to bid for this and they are coming from the United States, UK, India, Malaysia and France. They will be asked to put up two power stations, not of huge megawattages at this stage and both on the coast. One in the Eastern Cape and one in Kwazulu Natal, producing a collective 1 000 MW of electricity. They won't be using coal, as we have been used to up to now; they will be oil-fired - open-cycle gas-turbine (OCGT). These are due to come in during the last quarter of 2008 and they will follow those peaking power plants that are being built of a similar type, also OCGTs and also oil-fired, but in the Western Cape and not built by the private sector, but by Eskom.

Perlman: Now Martin, the private-sector again getting involved in power. This time, though, it is hydroelectrical and it is in the Free State. Tell us about that.

Creamer: Hydro-electricity is a rarity in South Africa and in the Free State even more so. We see a very small, again a moderate entry of an IPP coming in on two sites, one on the As river and one on the Saulspoort dam. There they will collectively produce about 6,4 MW of electricity, again moderate, but again showing a new trend towards IPP and they will sell this electricity off to the local authority, which will rely to extent of 20 % on hydroelectric power. That will be the Bethelehem local authority receiving this from the end of next year. Construction is due to begin in September on these two micro power plants. NuPlanet is the company involved, a Netherlands-South African amalgam, supported by an off-shoot of the Central Energy Fund, which is State-owned.

Perlman: Staying with energy, Sasol, a company with an increasing global reach, has some US-related developments.

Creamer: In a surprise development and again related to energy, we see that an American company, Intelligent Energy, has produced a system that generates electricity using the diesel that is produced by Sasol. Again, we see the inching along of the so-called hydrogen age and hydrogen economy. The Americans have chosen Sasol's fuel because it is so ultra-clean and has a low sulphur content. They have put it into their systems, which is a real-world demonstration of how a fuel-cell can produce electricity. They have actually sold their excess electricity into the Southern Californian electricity grid, having used fuel from South Africa's Sasol. We know that oil is a finite commodity and has got to exit as a pervasive fuel at some stage. A lot of people are working on the fuel-cell, which is regarded as the engine of the future. What is fascinating is that conventional fuel, coming from South Africa's Sasol, can be the chemical energy that is converted into electricity, in a very efficient way, using a fuel cell.

Perlman: A fast-changing sector. Keep an eye on it for us. Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly, he'll be back with us at the same time next week.
Edited by: Yolande Botes
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