MyBroadband has recently published photos of rocks which came from trucks which tried to deliver these rocks as coal to Eskom’s Hendrina Power Station in Mpumalanga.
Since publishing this article, MyBroadband received numerous additional photos of rocks, sand, and poor-quality coal delivered to Eskom power plants.
A number of Eskom power stations are affected by rocks and poor-quality coal which negatively influence their operations.
Energy expert Chris Yelland told Daily Maverick that the issue around coal quality has been ongoing for years and that coal quality is not consistent across the country.
“Some suppliers deliver coal which has foreign matter like stones, sand, and metal. This, of course, will have an impact on the mechanisms of a generation unit in the long term.”
He explained that poor quality coal, for example, produces more ash after the coal is burned. Most power generation units in South Africa have not been designed to handle this additional ash.
This problem is so severe that Cosatu General Secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali recently suggested that it is partly to blame for the load-shedding which occurred in February.
Coal quality control
One of the main problems is that pre-certification of coal is done at the coal mines, after which there is an understanding that coal of this quality will be delivered to power stations.
This, however, does not always happen.
Many coal providers take a chance to deliver poor-quality coal or even sand and rocks to power stations, hoping to get away with it.
The power stations with good quality controls will send the coal back with a stern warning to the coal provider.
At other stations without proper quality controls, the poor-quality coal and even rocks may make it to the mills and burners.
Since there is seldom any strong action against companies who provide poor-quality coals or rocks to power plants, it is a risk worth taking.
Good quality coal is in strong demand internationally, and with high export prices it makes financial sense for coal producers to rather sell their coal to the global market.
No comment from Eskom
Eskom was asked for comment about poor quality coal, which sometimes includes rocks and sand, being delivered to power stations, but the company did not respond by the time of publication.
Rocks and poor-quality coal
The photos below show the poor-quality coal and rocks delivered to the Hendrina, Matla, and other Eskom power stations.