A $1.3-million feasibility study has been initiated into the prospect of converting the coal-fired Kelvin power station, east of Johannesburg, into a 450 MW to 600 MW gas-fired power station. The study will also assess the potential for developing the Kelvin site into a gas distribution hub for Gauteng, South Africa’s industrial heartland.
The 12-month study is being funded by way of a US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) grant, which has been awarded to NOVO Energy, a South African integrated natural gas company, owned by Harith General Partners.
USTDA Sub-Sahara Africa regional manager Jacob Flewelling tells Engineering News Online that the study will be conducted by EHS Support, of the US, in partnership with Prime Africa, of South Africa.
The Kelvin power station was initially developed and owned by the City of Johannesburg in the 1950s and 1960s. The two-station facility has a nameplate capacity of 600 MW, but only one of Kelvin’s two stations is currently operational.
In 2001, the plant was sold to private investors, transforming Kelvin into the country’s only coal-fired independent power producer, backed by a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Johannesburg’s electricity utility, City Power.
Kelvin has since changed hands on several occasions and is currently owned by Aldwych, which, like NOVO Energy, is also a Harith General Partners investment.
NOVO Energy CEO Andri Hugo tells Engineering News Online that gas sourcing will form a major portion of the study and that various options will be examined, including tapping into the Rompco pipeline, which transports gas from Mozambique to South Africa. Rompco is a joint venture between Sasol, Companhia Mocambiçana de Gasoduto and the State-owned South African Gas Development Company, or iGas.
However, the study will also assess prospects for using liquefied natural gas (LNG), which could, in future, be imported through Richards Bay, in KwaZulu-Natal. Both pipeline and rail logistics solutions will be assessed for transporting the gas from Richards Bay to Kelvin, situated in Kempton Park.
“NOVO Energy is driving the study, because of the importance of gas supply to the project. Without finding a way to secure gas, at the right price, one can’t even start looking at converting Kelvin to a gas-fired power station,” Hugo explains.
“It’s the first piece of the puzzle that we hope to solve through this feasibility study.”
As with all USTDA grants, Flewelling says the aspiration it to create export opportunities for American companies. In this case, firms with expertise to deliver gas infrastructure and gas-to-power solutions.
Although the PPA with City Power is due to expire in the next few years, USTDA believes there will be a strong incentive for City Power to enter into a new contract, particularly if Kelvin were in the position to produce lower-emission electricity from gas rather than coal.
Likewise, there is an incentive for Aldwych to extend Kelvin’s operational life, particularly as the plant is already integrated into the Gauteng network and also has all the necessary regulatory licences and permits.
Hugo believes there is also significant potential to supply gas to industrial customers in Ekurhuleni, which remains one of South Africa’s main manufacturing hubs.
ENERGY STORAGE PILOT
Separately, USTDA has also signed a $500 000 grant in favour of Bushveld Energy, which is promoting the deployment of the Vanadium Redox Flow battery (VRFB) in South Africa.
The grant will be used in support of a pilot project to demonstrate the performance of an energy storage system in South Africa.
For the first 18 months of the assessment, Eskom will test the VRFB system at its Rosherville research centre, south of Johannesburg. Thereafter, the unit will be relocated to an alternative site to further evaluate the role the battery could play in the South African context.
Bushveld Energy CEO Mikhail Nikomarov tells Engineering News Online the USTDA grant will enable the company to expand the scope of the pilot to include a study into the ability of the battery to offer multiple services either simultaneous, or over the course of a day.
“The idea would be to define the most immediate business cases for the battery.”
The second site has not yet been selected and Nikomarov says the initial modelling work is likely to assist with the selection of the most suitable commercial site.
The VRFB will have a peak power of 120 kW and 450 kWh peak energy storage. Bushveld Energy’s US-based technology partner, UniEnergy Technologies, has manufactured the unit.