In October 2022, three units at Kusile power station in Mpumalanga were shut down. This came as a result of the collapse of a flue gas desulphurisation duct that carries emissions from unit 1 into a large chimney. The duct collapsed under the weight of ash build-up inside the pipe.
Noteworthy, the chimney also houses the flue gas ducts for units 2 and 3 which is why the three units, with a combined generation capacity of 2,400MW, had to be shut down. The shutdown of these units largely contributed to two full stages of load-shedding. Eskom expected the three units to be reintroduced to the grid by December 24.
The good news is that at least one of the three units could start generating electricity in October, approximately two months earlier. This was revealed recently by Eskom’s head of generation Bheki Nxumalo. The earlier completion date will reportedly give the state-owned power company room to increase overall maintenance without higher stages of load-shedding.
Nxumalo explained that once all the three units return to service they will run at full capacity.
Kusile Power Plant Overview
Kusile is a coal-fired power station close to the existing Kendal power station in the Delmas municipal area of the Mpumalanga province South Africa. It is the second most advanced coal-fired power plant project in Eskom after the Medupi power station in Lephalale. As a rule, a coal-fired power station takes about eight years to build.
The over US $7bn stations will consist of six units each rated at approximately 800MW installed capacity giving a total of 4800MW. As such it will be one of the largest coal-fired power stations in the world, once finished. The power station will be coal-fired, with the coal supplied by a new colliery near the power station.
Below is the Kusile power station timeline and all you need to know about the project from the beginning to the present date.
Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism issued a positive Record of Decision. As a rule, a coal-fired power station takes about eight years to build; the project was not expected to complete Unit 1 until 2017 (approximately 8 years after initial works began) and the entire project not until 2021.
Black and Veatch were appointed as the project engineer for construction.
Hitachi Power Africa awarded the boiler contract worth US $1.1bn.
Alstom S&E awarded the turbine island works contract valued at US $777.6m.
Black & Veatch Corp. Awarded approval for US $805.6m in financing from the U.S. Export-Import Bank.
In May, Eleven contractor vehicles, seven offices, two large mobile cranes, and the west wing of the KCW office block were set alight, vehicles stoned, and offices and stores looted. This caused major delays in the implementation of the project.
300-ton 910 MVA Generator Step-up Transformer placed on its foundation, assembled with all its Auxiliary systems and filled with 128 000 Litres of Mineral Oil. All Electrical integrity tests were performed successfully to confirm that the transformer was ready to receive power.
In February 1400 employees reported being absent due to labour disputes causing further delays.
Construction work at the Kusile Power plant halted after a worker was killed at the site
South African power utility Eskom confirmed the death of the worker saying construction work at the Kusile Power plant in South Africa halted as the worker died as a result of a crane collapse.
According to the spokesman for Eskom, Khulu Phasiwe, work was stopped immediately as four other workers were also injured in the accident which occurred on the site located in the North Eastern SIDE OF Mpumalanga Province.
Phasiwe also noted that despite the fact that construction work had been halted on the entire plant, construction work will resume on other parts that had not been affected by the incident.
According to an official from Eskom, works on the Kusile power plant in South Africa will still be completed on the expected dates and the first unit of the coal-fired power station is expected to be completed by the first half of 2017.
ABB to complete automation of 800MW unit in Kusile power station
Kusile Power Station’s unit 1 goes on full load at 800 MW
Eskom announced that Kusile Power Station’s unit 1, attained full load last week, accomplishing yet another key highlight. This follows the first synchronization of the same unit on 26 December 2016.
Synchronization kicks off a series of testing activities, leading to commercial operation, which starts with post-synchronization testing, Eskom said in a statement.
According to the utility, this is followed by the combustion optimization process to support an initial full load. Presently, Kusile Power Station’s Unit 1 is in the last phase of the combustion optimization phase.
Achieving full load means running the unit at the full design and operating competence.
For Kusile Unit 1, the full load-generating capacity is 800MW. Kusile Unit 1 going on full load is just one more stride closer to the final goal of commercial operation.
In the meantime, the construction and commissioning activities on the remaining Kusile units, Unit 2 to Unit 6, continue to progress successively with the drive to early completion. The station will consist of six units, which will produce a sum of 4,800MW. As such, it will be one of the biggest coal-fired power stations in the world once done.
“This highlight would never have been achievable without the dedication that the Kusile Execution Team, led by Frans Sithole, has shown. I praise the team for this achievement and the long hours worked in making certain that Unit 1 goes on full load,” said Abram Masango, Group Executive.
located near eMalahleni in Mpumalanga, Kusile – the isiNdebele and siSwati word meaning “the dawn has come”, is South Africa’s biggest multibillion-rand construction project and will be the fourth biggest coal plant in the world once done, Eskom highlighted.
According to Eskom, Kusile is the first power station in South Africa and Africa to use wet flue gas desulphurization (WFGD) technology.
WFGD is the recent state-of-the-art technology used to remove oxides of sulphur (SOx), for example, sulphur dioxide (SO2), from the exhaust flue gases in power plants that burn coal or oil, the utility explains.
Unit 2 was synchronised to the national grid the same year.
In August, a fire broke out at the station amidst tensions with unions over pay increases causing damage. This also caused further delays.
The government’s Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan announced a forensic probe into delays and cost overruns on the completion of Kusile and Medupi Power Stations.
Unit 3 was synchronised to the national grid.
In November South African investigative journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh published an article in the Daily Maverick detailing an alleged slush fund corruption scandal involving Eskom executives and at least four contractors. The scandal involved contracts worth a combined US $598m resulting in an estimated US $4.5m being lost due to irregular activities. By the time of the publication of Myburgh’s article, the construction of Kusile was five years past its original completion date and an estimated US $5.4bn over budget.
In late October, Eskom announced that Unit 2 at the Kusile power station had attained commercial operation status and would contribute up to 800MW to the national grid. According to Eskom, this was the second unit at Kusile to enter commercial operation, with Unit 1 having done so in 2017. Furthermore, construction, testing and optimisation activities on the remaining four units were progressing well, with some of them currently providing intermittent power to support the grid.
The utility is fitting WFGD to the Kusile plant as an atmospheric emission abatement technology to ensure compliance with air quality standards, in line with current international practice.
In early November, Eskom launched a tender for the construction of the combustion Waste Terrace Phase 2.
In December, it was announced that Eskom was set to recover US $106m from ABB South Africa after the company and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) reached an agreement with ABB to pay back in full, money derived from an overpayment by Eskom. The unlawful contract by ABB was for work at the Kusile Power station that commenced in 2015.
The recovery follows the issuing of summons by Eskom and the SIU for damages of about US $257.8m in the North Gauteng High Court to recover funds from former Eskom executives, former Board members, and members of the Gupta family and their associates.
In late March, Eskom announced that Unit 3 of the Kusile Power Station achieved commercial operation status. This brings to three the number of generation units that have achieved commercial status at the project, generating a maximum of 2400MW to support the South African power grid. Bringing the 800MW unit to commercial status means construction activity has come to an end on half of the eMalahleni, Mpumalanga project.
The achievement of this milestone follows two years of rigorous testing and optimisation since the unit was first synchronised into the national grid in April 2019. This significant milestone marks the contractual handover of the unit from the principal contractors under the Group Capital Build project unit to the Generation division.
In mid-May, Deputy President David Mabuza confirmed that the Kusile Power Station is set to be operational by 2023. Mabuza was accompanied by a ministerial task team, including Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe, acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshaveni and State Security Minister, Ayanda Dlodlo while conducting oversight of the now 50% operational Kusile Power Station in Mpumalanga.
In mid-June, South African Deputy President David Mabuza said that the Eskom board and management are committed to completing the Kusile power station within the revised, board-approved completion date in the 2024/25 financial year, and within the project budget of US $82.7bn, excluding interest during construction.
In late June, Eskom added that despite the fact that only one unit out of six at the Kusile Power Station is online and contributing to the national grid, the construction of the project is set for completion in May next year. Eskom said that the project is not necessarily behind schedule but the contractor is dealing with a number of defects which are causing some delays.
Eskom Synchronises Kusile Power Station Unit to National Grid
According to Eskom, the Kusile Power Station Project’s Unit 4 was triumphantly linked to the national power grid for the first time on Thursday. The synchronization milestone was reached on December 23, indicating that the power station’s four generating units are now connected to the grid and will be able to contribute an additional 800MW to the country’s power system once the unit is fully optimized after a series of tests and other commissioning activities.
Kusile Power Station’s Success
During its testing and optimization phase, the synchronized unit will supply energy sporadically for the next six months before being handed over to the generating division and becoming formally part of the commercial fleet, according to Eskom.
Bheki Nxumalo, Eskom’s group executive for Group Capital, stated that this achievement is exactly what South Africa and its economy require. This success, according to Nxumalo, represents the team’s unwavering commitment to completing the power station project without additional delays, which will assist in increasing South Africa’s electrical capacity.
Nxumalo also expressed his gratitude to the Kusile Execution Team and its contractors for their dedication. The power provider stated that building and commissioning work on Kusile Units 5 and 6 are progressing as anticipated. The power station will eventually have six units producing a total of 4 800MW.
The Kusile power station is the country’s biggest building project, and if finished, it will be the world’s fourth-largest coal plant. Wet flue gas desulphurization (WFGD) is now being installed at the Kusile power station as an atmospheric pollution abatement technique, making it more ecologically friendly. Kusile is also the first WFGD-equipped power plant in South Africa and Africa.
Many people and companies will be relieved by this addition to the country’s national power system, as the country has been dealing with an inconsistent power supply source for several years. Loadshedding was implemented as a result of this. As a result, the increase is expected to make it easier for the country to transition away from load shedding.
Unit 4 at Kusile Power Plant in Mpumalanga is Now Supplying Full-Time Power to the Grid
A producing unit of Eskom‘s ailing Kusile power plant in Mpumalanga is now supplying full-time power to the South African National grid. After five months of testing, the utility announced in a statement recently that unit 4 at the station had been turned over to the Generation division to become part of its commercial fleet formally.
This transfer, according to Eskom, represents another milestone in Eskom’s efforts to stabilize the power system by adding a much-needed 800MW to the country’s power grid. In December 2021, the unit was initially linked to the grid.
Kusile is South Africa’s largest building project and the world’s fourth-largest coal plant. It has been marred by controversy, including delays, enormous cost overruns, design flaws, and corruption charges.
Previously, unit excursions at the station contributed to periods of load shedding. Former Eskom manager France Hlakudi, former Eskom group executive for the group capital division Abram Masango, and three others have been charged with fraud, corruption, and money laundering in connection with the R745 million contract at Kusile between 2014 and 2017.