Hitachi to meet Eskom’s coal-fired power station revised schedule

Hitachi to meet Medupis revised scheduleHitachi Power Africa (HPA) has confirmed that 98 percent of its scope of work on boiler Unit 6 at the Medupi power station, being built in Limpopo,South Africa has been completed.

The Engineering group has also confirmed that it is in a position to meet Eskom’s revised commissioning programme despite having to replace up to four separators.

Earlier this year, State-owned utility Eskom announced a further delay to the commissioning of the first Medupi unit to the second half of 2014 having already moved the schedule to the end of 2013 from an initial plan to synchronise the plant to the grid in 2011.

The budget for the 4, 764 MW coal-fired power station was also revised upwards from R91.2billion (US$8.8 billion) to R105 billion (US$10.1 billion), excluding interest during construction. The delay announcement followed an independent assessment of boiler-weld problems, as well as software failures relating to the control and instrumentation contract.

HPA COO Tom Brown reports that the programme to rectify weld defects is nearly finished and that the next milestone for Unit 6 will be the execution of the hydro test which is scheduled for March 2014.Brown says there is sufficient time in the revised schedule to allow it to modify the reheater elements which will be realigned at the request of the client.

In addition, Hitachi is in discussions with a subcontractor to replace up to four separators – a work package that is described as manageable and which Brown insists will not increase the overall cost of the project.

In an oral reply to a Parliamentary question posed on October 24, Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba said the Medupi management team had adopted a 24-hour, seven-day presence to oversee the performance of contractors.

When completed, the power station is to have six boilers each powering an 800 MW turbine, producing 4800 MW of power. It is expected to become the largest dry-cooled coal-fired power station in the world. Super-critical boilers will be used to improve the efficiency of the power plant.

Medupi will be supplied by coal from Exxaro’s Grootegeluk coal mine, located north of the site. Eskom has placed a contract with Exxaro to supply 14.6 MT of coal per year for 40 years. The building of the coal power station has attracted widespread criticism in South Africa. Critics have alleged that the government pushed the project forward because the African National Congress held a 25 percent share of the venture and stood to make a profit of close to R1 billion  (US$96.7 million) on the deal. However, supporters of the project argue that the plant is needed to supply vital electricity to South Africa over the long term. Some point out that effective management of coal supplies was what was really needed, rather than yet another environmentally unfriendly coal station.

The African Development Bank lent US$500 million for the project in 2008. In 2010, the World Bank agreed to lend South Africa US$3.75 billion to assist with several energy projects, with US$3.05 billion allocated for completion of the Medupi power station. The approval of the World Bank loan drew criticism for supporting increased global emissions of greenhouse gases.

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