Eskom ignoring problem that causes breakdowns — energy analyst

Independent energy expert, Tshepo Kgadima, said Eskom is ignoring the preventable problem of burning coal at the wrong temperature, which causes boiler tube leaks.

Speaking to ENCA, Kgadima warned that South Africa should expect load-shedding for a long time to come.

One of the problems, Kgadima said, is that Eskom’s management and board don’t have the capacity and knowledge to understand what is really happening.

“Eskom has very good engineers, but the board and management can’t comprehend the input they provide in terms of reports and solutions,” he said.

Kgadima said the result is that a large portion of the generation fleet of Eskom is offline because of breakdowns.

“Eskom’s management has not been able to address the root causes of the breakdowns. If you can address these causes, South Africa will not have load-shedding,” he said.

Tshepo Kgadima
Tshepo Kgadima

Kgadima said one of the biggest problems is that Eskom is not burning the coal they receive correctly.

Eskom has been secretive about what exactly caused power station breakdowns, but boiler problems feature prominently.

“The reason for boilers continually breaking down is not the age of the boilers. It is simply that Eskom does not burn coal in the manner the boiler has been calibrated for,” Kgadima said.

“They are running at much higher temperatures, which Eskom engineers have been warning about.”

He said power plant managers do not have real-time insight into what is happening in the boilers. As a result, the high temperatures are causing boiler tube leakages which have a snowball effect.

This problem is preventable, but only if you have competent employees and managers who understand the geochemical properties of the coal they are burning.

“Eskom needs to pay particular attention to this issue, which we have been advocating for since 2015,” he said.

Independent Energy Thought Leaders CEO, Mike Rossouw, echoed Kgadima’s views that load-shedding is here to stay for a long time.

He said Eskom’s power stations are in dire need of major maintenance and major overalls. They cannot be fixed overnight.

“The state of the power stations today is worse than they have ever been,” he said.

Rossouw added that the politicians and Eskom board do not know what is happening inside the power utility.

“Nobody is taking the appropriate action. Serious things have to be done which are politically unpalatable,” he said.

MyBroadband asked Eskom about the lack of expertise among its board members and management, but it did not respond.

Eskom also did not answer questions on why load-shedding did not improve after its promised September 2021 deadline.

Now read: Disaster strikes at Eskom

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Eskom ignoring problem that causes breakdowns — energy analyst