South Africa’s two biggest coal-fired power stations, Medupi and Kusile, have a major design flaw which has forced Eskom to shut down power generation units.
According to a report by the City Press, the height of the large boilers at the power stations must be increased by 12.5m to reduce exhaust temperatures.
The boilers are currently 130 metres tall but need to be 142.5 metres high to reduce operating temperature and allow the power stations to operate at full capacity.
Speaking to the City Press, Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter said the temperature of the exhaust steam is 128 degrees, which is damaging equipment.
“That’s too hot and it’s damaging the exhaust equipment,” he said. “That’s why we can’t operate the units to their full capacity.”
More delays, more costs
These modifications mean that each of the power generation units at the two power stations will have to be turned off while the height of the boilers is increased, placing further strain on the national grid.
Both power stations were expected to be completed in 2015 when they were first announced in 2007, but De Ruyter has now said Medupi will be completed in 2021 and Kusile in 2022.
Medupi’s total cost has risen from R80 billion to R145 billion, while Kusile’s has increased from R100 billion to R161.4 billion.
Load-shedding for five years
As the boiler design flaw is repaired, load-shedding is expected to continue, with experts stating there will be power cuts for the next five years.
Energy advisor Ted Blom said the energy minister is also not close enough to Eskom’s operations to know what is going on, and De Ruyter has not been there long enough to make accurate predictions.
“Our estimate is that it will take at least five years under the Eskom scenario of refurbishing the boilers.”
Blom added that this prediction for five years of load-shedding is the best-case scenario for Eskom.