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Kusile power plant project, South Africa – update

Image of the Kusile power station

Photo by © Creamer Media

29th September 2023

By: Sheila Barradas

Creamer Media Research Coordinator & Senior Deputy Editor

     

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Name of the Project
Kusile power plant project.

Location
Mpumalanga, South Africa.

Project Owner/s
State-owned power utility Eskom.

Project Description
The Kusile power station project, near the existing Kendal power station, in the Nkangala district of Mpumalanga, will comprise six units, each rated at an 800 MW installed capacity for a total capacity of 4 800 MW. Once completed, Kusile will be the fourth-largest coal-fired power station in the world.

The Kusile project will include a power station precinct, power station buildings, administrative buildings (control buildings and buildings for medical and security purposes), roads and a high-voltage yard.

The associated infrastructure will include a coal stockyard, coal and ash conveyors, temporary and permanent water-supply pipelines, temporary electricity supply during construction, water and wastewater treatment facilities, ash disposal systems, a railway line, limestone offloading facilities, access roads (including haul roads) and dams for water storage, as well as a railway siding and railway line to transport the limestone supply (sorbent).

The power station will be the first in South Africa to install wet flue-gas desulphurisation (FGD) – a state-of-the-art technology used to remove oxides of sulphur, such as sulphur dioxide, from exhaust flue gases in power plants that burn coal or oil.

This technology abates atmospheric emissions, in line with current international practice, to ensure compliance with air-quality standards, especially since the power station is located in a priority air-shed area.

The wet FGD plant is a totally integrated chemical plant using limestone as feedstock and producing gypsum as a by-product.

Each supercritical tower boiler will be about 115 m high. The air-cooled condensers will be built on and supported by twenty 60-m-high concrete columns.

Potential Job Creation
A comprehensive exit and outreach strategy, which aims to gradually upskill and release local labour to the job market, has been formalised in partnership with key stakeholders. This allows for project stability amid the gradual demobilisation of workers once milestones are achieved, and mitigating the risk of local community disruptions.

Capital Expenditure
R233.4-billion.

Planned Start/End Date
Kusile Unit 1 achieved commercial operation on August 30, 2017.

Kusile Unit 2 achieved first synchronisation on March 24, 2018, and achieved full load in January 2019. Commercial operation was achieved on October 29, 2020.

Kusile Unit 3 achieved first synchronisation on April 14, 2019, eight months ahead of schedule. Commercial operation was achieved in March 2021.

Kusile Unit 4 was connected to the national grid for the first time on December 23, 2021, and was formally handed over to the Eskom generation division on May 31, 2022, following five months of testing and optimisation.

However, units 1 to 3, which have a combined capacity of 2 100 MW, became inoperable on October 22, 2022, after the Unit 1 flue duct collapsed because of a build-up of slurry. The collapse also compromised the unit 2 and 3 flue ducts, which share a common chimney with the Unit 1 flue.

Latest Developments
Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Minister Barbara Creecy has upheld the decision of the National Air Quality Officer (NAQO) to permit the temporary operation of the Kusile coal power station using temporary stacks that bypass the FGD pollution-control plant.

The NAQO, in concurrence with the Nkangala district municipality, in Mpumalanga,confirmed on June 25 that it had granted a postponement for the Kusile power station to meet minimum emission standards (MES) from June 5, 2023, to March 31, 2025.

The decision, which includes several conditions, was made to enable Kusile to resume production using temporary stacks, about 12 months earlier than would have been the case, had the power station’s three units been permanently restored.

The units were damaged on October 23, 2022, after the Unit 1 flue duct collapsed, owing to an accumulation of slurry. The collapse also compromised the Unit 2 and Unit 3 flue ducts, which share a chimney with the Unit 1 flue.

However, the NAQO decision was appealed on July 6, 2023, by the Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in Action and groundWork, represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights.

In the appeal, the groups acknowledged their concern about ongoing loadshedding, but also calculated that the health-impact costs of allowing for the FGD to be bypassed would be about R24-billion.

Eskom required an adjudication of the MES appeal by Creecy, along with a decision on the Atmospheric Emission Licence appeal by the Nkangala district municipality before it could begin producing using the temporary stacks.

Appeals of this nature take 30 days to adjudicate and it is understood that Eskom submitted its responding statement on August 18, and that the last responding statement was received on August 21.

The Minister’s decision was communicated to Eskom through the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) appeal office on the morning of September 26. The Nkangala decision on the appeal of the Atmospheric Emission licence was still awaited.

Eskom told Engineering News that Creecy had included two amended decisions that required it to report on the progress of the repair of the permanent stack and on compliance with the conditions of the decision monthly rather than quarterly.

The reporting would include ambient air quality and health monitoring, with Creecy also adding a requirement for the inclusion of health monitoring of chickens and pigs at nearby farms.

The original decision stipulated that Eskom should take measures to only mitigate against the exposure of its employees and surrounding communities to harm; the utility’s health-impact mitigation plan was approved by the DFFE on September 18.

“Eskom has made progress with the implementation of this plan on site and has placed additional ambient monitoring stations in communities, which could be impacted [on] by increased sulphur dioxide emissions,” the utility said in response to questions posed by Engineering News.

Speaking during a briefing on the implementation of the Energy Action Plan on September 26, Eskom generation head Bheki Nxumalo confirmed again that Unit 3 at Kusile could be commissioned immediately, should Eskom secure a favourable appeals outcome.

Responding to an Engineering News question on whether it was still possible to meet the revised return-to-service schedule of October 14 for Unit 3, October 30 for Unit 1 and November 30 for Unit 2, Nxumalo reaffirmed that the project was ahead of schedule.

Nevertheless, he highlighted that the units had been idle for nearly a year and that there were likely to be “teething issues” during commissioning.

Key Contracts, Suppliers and Consultants
Eskom, in partnership with Black & Veatch International (project management and engineering services); Ninham Shand Consulting Services (environmental-impact assessment, geotechnical investigation and traffic impact); AirShed Planning Professionals (air-quality impact); Jongens Keet Associates (noise impact); Strategic Environmental Focus, or SEF (visual impacts); Makecha Development Association (impacts on terrestrial fauna and flora); Golder Associates, through Ecosun (aquatic-ecosystem impact); Groundwater Consulting Services (groundwater impact); Ilitha Riscom (risk assessment); Northern Flagship Institution (archaeological impact); University of the Free State (impacts on agricultural potential); Urban-Econ (socioeconomic impacts); Seaton Thomson & Associates (planning implications); Mark Wood Environmental Consultants (process review); Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Africa, or MHPSA, a subsidiary of Hitachi Power Europe, or HPE (boiler contract); Actom, formerly Alstom S&E Africa (main turbine area); ABB SA (C&I, including supply of medium-voltage switchgear and associated equipment); Mikropul, subcontracted by Alstom (axial-flow fans and auxiliary equipment for the turbine halls' ventilation); GE (EPC of six turbine islands, air-cooled condensers and WFGD); Alstom (WFGD); Murray & Roberts, or M&R (boiler construction contract); Roshcon, a subsidiary of Eskom (enabling civils, terracing construction and site services); Concrete Finishing Equipment (dust filters, and silo and environmental safety); Kusile Civil Works, or KCW, Joint Venture (JV), comprising Stefanutti Stocks, Basil Read, Group Five and WBHO Construction (main civil works); Siemens (generator transformers and electrical and auxiliary power); EsorFranki Geotechnical, formerly Franki Africa, and Stefanutti Stocks Geotechnical JV, under a subcontract to KCW JV (piling works for the turbine, boiler and air-cooled condensers); Concor Karrena JV (construction of chimney shells/structures); Tubular (engineering, supply and installation of FGD system); DSE Structural Engineers & Contractors, subcontracted by Genrec Engineering (fabrication of steel columns for boilers 1 to 3); Steel Services Direct, or SSD (steel, pipes and wax plants); GB Bearings (supplier of HSR horizontal bearing assemblies and profile bore bearings); Sulzer Pumps South Africa, subcontracted by Actom (supply of booster and boiler feed pumps); Steloy Castings, subcontracted by Sulzer Pumps South Africa (supply of chrome steel components for the pumps); Clyde Bergemann Power Group, subcontracted by MHPSA (supplier of sootblowers for boilers); Clyde Bergemann Africa (fly ash handling system); PD Naidoo & Associates, or PDNA, Industrial Projects (main water and wastewater treatment contractor); GE Water Engineered Systems, subcontracted by PDNA Industrial Projects (advanced water and wastewater treatment equipment); Bateman Africa (coal stockyard and terrace materials handling systems); Lesedi Nuclear Services (procurement and supply of the balance of plant equipment); Grinaker-LTA Metals & Minerals (supply and erection of piping, steelwork and free-issue chemicals); US Export-Import Bank, or Ex-Im Bank (loan finance); TBD (railroad construction and combustion water terrace construction phases 1 and 2); Zest WEG Group (auxiliary transformers); Aberdare Cables, a Powertech company within the JSE-listed Altron Group (cables); Konecranes (heavy duty cranes); Energy Engineered Products (supply of valves); and Turnmill Proquip Engineering (material for boiler ducting).

Contact Details for Project Information
Eskom media desk, email mediadesk@eskom.co.za.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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