Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy reports that she has had no formal communication from Eskom with regards to it potentially not installing flue-gas desulphurisation (FGD) systems at the Medupi power station in line with a previous commitment to do so.
FGD technologies are used to remove sulphur dioxide (SO2) from flue gases and one of the conditions of a 2010 World Bank loan of $3.75-billion to Eskom was that Medupi would progressively install such systems across all six units during future maintenance intervals.
In a broad-ranging interview with EE Business Intelligence MD Chris Yelland, the Minister reiterated that any plant built after 2010, including Medupi and Kusile, would have to comply with the country’s prescribed SO2 limit of 500 mg/Nm3. Kusile’s units would be fitted with FGD during construction.
“The department is a regulator, and the regulations say that power plants must comply. There is no regulatory environment that allows any institution to say that it will not comply. In some instances, they may only be able to comply over a period of time, and plants can then make application to come into full compliance over time,” Creecy said in the interview.
She stressed, too, that she had received no formal communication from Eskom in regard to it not installing FGD, but had noted media reports indicating that Eskom was considering alternatives.
In May, Eskom confirmed that it was exploring alternatives to the installation of FGD units at Medupi.
Retrofitting the units, Eskom indicated, would involve capital expenditure of far more than R35-billion, which was difficult in light of Eskom’s financial constraints. It would also make the power station more water intensive and reduce its overall nameplate capacity by 90 MW.
The assessment of the alternatives would continue for between six to nine months and Eskom promised its air-quality commitments to its financing partners, including the World Bank, would be honoured.
Creecy told Yelland that, as the regulator, she required a formal communication from Eskom on the matter before she could comment.
Nevertheless she stressed that, unless a coal-fired power station was to be decommissioned before 2030, it would require FGD or some other form of SO2 emissions control technology to comply with the 500 mg/Nm3 for stations built after 2010, or 1 000 mg/Nm3 for those built prior to that date.
“I understand that the World Bank may be a lender for the Medupi project, and I also understand that the bank may have certain requirements that Eskom may be required to meet. But as the regulator of emissions, no-one has spoken to us at a formal level about dispensing with the FGD plant at Medupi, nor of not complying with the SO2 emissions limit of 500 mg/Nm3.”