Eskom has returned the first of three large generating units at its Kusile coal power station to service after nearly a year of downtime.
Kusile Unit 1, 2, and 3 were taken offline due to the collapse of a part of the flue-gas desulphurisation duct (FGD) in late October 2022.
Eskom has developed a temporary solution to allow for a faster return-to-service while the FGD system is repaired.
In a statement on Saturday, 30 September 2023, the power utility said that Unit 3 had been returned to service two months ahead of schedule.
“Eskom is pleased to announce that the first unit, amongst the three impacted by the collapse of stacks in October 2022, is returned to service today,” Eskom stated.
The utility said that Unit 3 would add 800MW of capacity to Eskom’s fleet once loaded to its full capacity.
“This marks a significant milestone in Eskom’s efforts to reduce and ultimately end load-shedding,” Eskom said.
In Eskom’s State of the System briefing on Wednesday, 27 September 2023, the utility’s head of generation Bheki Nxumalo, said that Eskom aimed to bring the unit back online on 14 October 2023.
Based on that timeline, the return is two weeks — and not two months — ahead of schedule.
Eskom required final approval for an application to exempt itself from emissions limitations to bring the unit back by using a temporary stack while the FGD structure is repaired.
The FGD is designed to help lower harmful emissions from the burning of coal.
The utility said Unit 3’s switch-on was done after receiving a positive decision on the Kusile Atmospheric Emission Licence (AEL) appeal from the Minister of Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) and the Nkangala District Municipality.
During the State of the System briefing this past week, Nxumalo said that Eskom expected final approval from the municipality by Thursday.
The National Air Quality Officer has granted Eskom a once-off postponement on the compliance timeframes for minimum emission standards for new plants.
This will allow Eskom to operate the units with the temporary stacks until 31 March 2025 at the latest.
The return of the Kusile units is a critical part of Eskom’s plan to keep load-shedding at a maximum of stage 4 over the 2023/2023 summer period.
Units 1, 2, and 3 are expected to add 2,160MW of generation. Unit 1 and Unit 2 are planned to be returned to service by the end of October and November, respectively.
In addition, Eskom plans to synchronise Kusile Unit 5 to the national grid fro the first time in December 2023. It will add a further 720MW of capacity.
Altogether, the four Kusile units will give Eskom an additional 2,880MW of capacity, enough to offset nearly three stages of load-shedding.