Given the landscape in South Africa, where project opportunities are expected to remain scarce until energy policies are finalised, engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) company Lesedi Nuclear Services has had to expand its service offering into other markets in Africa.
Lesedi business development executive Shane Pereira told Engineering News Online on the sidelines of Africa Energy Indaba, earlier this month, that the progress of the company’s diversification strategy into biomass, waste-to-energy and gas has been slow in South Africa, despite having had biomass projects reach preferred bidder status in previous years.
This was owing to the “pause” in the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REIPPPP).
Lesedi had bid on the Busby 5 MW biomass project, but the REIPPPP project awards have paused pending the updated Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) is approved by Cabinet and the National Economic Development and Labour Council, which is expected in March.
Following the finalisation of the IRP, the next round of renewable energy deals is expected to be launched
In the meantime, Lesedi is pursuing opportunities in Ghana, Namibia and Mauritius which has biomass and waste-to-energy projects under development.
Pereira mentioned that these projects sometimes struggle, or fail, to reach financial close, as a result of formalized commitments not being in order, such as signed power purchase agreements, but he remains optimistic that these opportunities will realise.
Additionally, Lesedi has won a contract to provide EPC services for South32’s Mozal aluminum smelter expansion project. Lesedi established site early in February 2019.
“This shows that Lesedi is ready to get involved with helping clients improve their plant performance but also reduce their particulate emissions and, where appropriate, aid with sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide removal. This is vital considering the Carbon Tax that will be implemented from June.
“We certainly aid clients, including the likes of Eskom, to reduce their emissions, especially with our company having past experience, having successfully completed particulate and sulphur dioxide removal projects at Impala Platinum, Lonmin Platinum and Northam Platinum in the past,” Pereira explained.
Lesedi currently provides EPC services for Eskom’s Koeberg nuclear power station, in the Western Cape, and the Medupi coal-fired power station, in Limpopo.
Lesedi also performs specialized maintenance services on nuclear plants across the US, the UK and Brazil.
Pereira remarked that some companies have had exemptions from carbon emissions, but those will expire in due course, opening up opportunities for Lesedi to assist with plant optimizations around cleaner operations.
“Because we are technology agnostic, we do not have a particular interest vested in any particular type of technology, but rather integrate different technologies for the client appropriately.”
Moreover, Pereira said that until the dust has settled in South Africa around energy security and the controversial nuclear discussions by previous leadership, the option for more nuclear power projects in South Africa is limited and the company will continue to pursue international nuclear opportunities.
For example, India is a market on the horizon that Lesedi will pursue.
“India has 67 80 MW of installed nuclear capacity, which comprises about 21 units and has 6 more reactors under construction with a combined capacity of 4300MW. It is a well established network of nuclear businesses, but obsolescence is a risk if modifications are not continuously done on the plant to update certain systems, such as fire detection and containment systems.
“We believe we can help them do that because of our experience at Koeberg, having done more than 150 modifications at the plant.”
Pereira added that this included the assessment of the required modifications to enable plant life extension of up to 20 years.