SA pushing to complete power station

12 April 2013

The construction of the Medupi power station in Lephalale, Limpopo province is on a “tight schedule” to deliver its first electricity to South Africa’s national grid by the end of the year, state company Eskom said on Thursday.

“As Eskom, we will do whatever it takes to ensure that we deliver by its target,” CEO Brian Dames told reporters after a site inspection by Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba. “Most of the construction, as you’ve seen today, is on track.”

Once completed, Medupi will be the largest dry-cooled, coal-fired power station in the world.

The Medupi timelines were reviewed in November 2012, and it was found that the target date of first power by late 2013 could be achieved with “significant effort”, Dames said.

There had been problems, including quality issues on the Hitachi boiler contract and the Alstom system control and instrumentation contract, and labour unrest.

The first unit of Medupi would deliver power to the grid by the end of the year and the other five units would follow at six- to eight-month intervals.

Gigaba said he had “no intention of allowing any delays to the target of December 2013”, adding that “tough penalties” would be imposed on the parties responsible if there were delays.

There were many risks, political and economic, if the project was not completed on time, he said.

Dames said that in December, Hitachi indicated that many welds on the boiler would have to be re-tested and replaced. Hitachi Power Africa, which is part-owned by the African National Congress’s investment arm Chancellor House, is providing the boilers for the power station.

Alstom’s computer software system also failed its factory acceptance test for the third time in December.

“Both Hitachi and Alstom have now given us assurance in writing that they will not delay the July 2013 hot commissioning date, which would enable us to synchronise the unit for first power by the end of the year,” Dames said.

“It is left for them to prove it to us … We will hold them to that. We will do whatever it takes to ensure this deadline is met.”

Construction at the site has also been hampered by workers downing tools. Eskom temporarily closed the power station in January when contract workers went on strike, following interruptions when workers downed tools in September last year.

Last month, Gigaba said: “Clearly, Eskom must exercise a more active role in the management of these projects, and ensuring that they constantly mediate the dispute between the workers and employers.”

Dames said Eskom was partnering with contractors and labour to foster improved labour relations. Eskom would play a more active role, and an industrial forum had been formed to discuss and resolve outstanding issues.

“For this project to be successful … we need everyone to be a part of that. We can’t have any more delays.”

Sapa