South Africa-based engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) company Lesedi Nuclear Services’ current plan to diversify into biomass, waste-to-energy and gas projects, as well as its targeted geographical expansion, is supported by the company’s niche expertise in bespoke project delivery, says Lesedi business development executive Shane Pereira.
Speaking to Engineering News at the Africa Energy Indaba last week, Pereira noted that the company was exploring nuclear opportunities in the UK, the US, Sweden, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia because those markets had the required budget to develop a project from feasibility to commercial production. Further, he noted that nuclear services were “niche enough [and] the market hasn’t been saturated – even in the developed world.”
He noted that increasing its market presence in these locations would be fairly simple, as “Lesedi already has a global footprint”, citing the company’s provision of skilled maintenance at more than 15 nuclear plants across the US, Europe and Brazil for over 15 years. International projects of particular interest for Lesedi include the Bellefonte nuclear power plant project, in Alabama, in the US, and the Hinkley Point nuclear power station, in Somerset, in the UK.
“We provided maintenance services in the US in the past, but we’re looking to expand our offering to engineering services and support going forward.” He noted that the time difference between South Africa and the US, taken in conjunction with the company’s state-based staff, meant that Lesedi could theoretically provide “competent resources at an affordable rate 24 hours a day.”
Further, he commented that the company’s resources in terms of nuclear maintenance skills and the ease of integration in terms of power plant systems and software, as well as the global experience of Lesedi’s staff, had ensured that language was one of the few remaining barriers to conducting business abroad.
With regard to Lesedi’s general EPC offering, he noted that, with power generation, be it waste-to-energy, coal, or biomass, there was a degree of customisation involved. “Where Lesedi differentiates itself is its ability to deliver bespoke projects by leveraging its technical and engineering capability, and smart integrated management system. Additionally, the company’s willingness to do the work upfront mitigates risk for the client,” Pereira noted.
He pointed to the time, money and effort the company put into its bids for Round 3 of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) – where Lesedi was awarded preferred bidder status on the 16.5 MW Mkuze biomass renewables project, in KwaZulu-Natal – as well as the 5 MW Busby biomass project as part of the small projects REIPPPP bidding round. Ultimately, neither of the projects reached financial close, but Pereira noted that the company spared no expense in preparing its bids, despite the fact that it was one of only two bidders in both cases.
He also pointed to Lesedi being the only company to bid for State-owned utility Eskom’s open-cycle gas turbines, which were completed in 2009, as well as the only company to bid on the design, procurement, installation and commissioning of all the low-pressure services for the Medupi power plant. He stressed that Lesedi was the only company willing to take on the “onerous” amount of preparatory work required for the tender process.
Periera stated that, in terms of the company’s EPC offering, the African market provided several opportunities because of its increasing demand for energy, as well as a dearth of engineering skills and competences.