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Medupi Power Project timeline and what you need to know

The Medupi power plant, is located in Lephalale, Limpopo. It is a Greenfield coal-fired power plant comprising six units rated in total at 4764MW installed capacity. Upon completion, Medupi Power Station is set to be the largest dry-cooled power station in the world. The boiler and turbine contracts for Medupi are the largest contracts that Eskom has ever signed in its 90-year history. Below is the Medupi Power Project timeline and all you need to know about the project from beginning to the present date.

2007

Originally conceived as Project Alpha, with only three units planned to total 2400MW but the design was changed at a late stage and doubled in size. The boilers were envisaged to be supercritical in type, which would make them 38% more effective than other Eskom power stations.

Initial cost was around US $4bn but revised to around US $4.7bn.

Parsons Brinckerhoff was appointed as the project engineer to oversee all construction.

2008

First structural concrete poured and first three air-cooled condenser columns completed.

2009

Unit 6 boiler lift shaft completed.

2010

First structural steel erected at Unit 6 boiler, chimney South concrete slide completed to a height of 220m and chimney North concrete slide completed to a height of 220m.

2011

Chimney South first flue cans lined with borosilicate glass installed, upgrade of D1675 access road completed, 10 000 ton coal silo completed and auxiliary boiler completed.

2012

Direct-current supplies energised and first 24-hour performance test of 5.4 km overland coal conveyor.

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2013

Unit 4 generator motor threaded into stator and wet run of submerged scraper conveyor conducted, readying boilers for first fire.

2014

Overland ash conveyor commissioned.

2015

The first unit, no 6 turbine started running at optimal speed of 3000 revolutions per minute.

2016

No 5 turbine undergoes load testing, primary Coal stockyard and conveyor and Ngwedi substation transformer commissioned (part of Medupi Power Station Integration Project).

2017

Unit 4 was commissioned and Commercial operation for no 5 turbine begins.

2018

Unit 3 enters commercial operation and Unit 2 gets synchronised.

2019

Final unit achieved synchronisation.

2020

Peripheral works such as overflow coal yards are undergoing expected to completed in 2021.

2021

In mid-May, South Africa’s Deputy President David Mabuza confirmed that the Medupi Power Station will be fully operational by end of the year. According to DP Mabuza, plans are afoot to make sure that there is enough electricity in the country. He further added that the government is planning to commercialise the power project.

In late June, Eskom assured parliament that  all six units at Medupi Power Station are working and contributing to the national grid. Parliament’s Portfolio Committee Chairperson Khaya Magaxa said that construction of the power station is complete and all six units are operational. But the problem that is left now is around defects.

“Eskom is working on defects so that when they want to have any reparation somewhere it doesn’t contribute to the problem of load shedding, a process that they are promising us it could be done by the beginning of next year,” he said.

In early August, Eskom announced that Unit 1, the last of six generation units of the Medupi Power Station Project in Lephalale, attained commercial operation status and was thus handed over to the Generation division. This milestone marked the completion of all building activities on the 4 764MW project, which commenced in May 2007. The planned operational life of the station is 50 years.

A few days later, there was a huge explosion at the power plant that led to significant damage that could take 2 years to repair. Several Eskom employees were suspended due to the explosion. The power company said that there was a deviation from procedure at one of its units, which led to the explosion.

“Following a preliminary investigation, it appears that while performing this activity, air was introduced into the generator at a point where hydrogen was still present in the generator at sufficient quantities to create an explosion which ignited and resulted in this explosion. It also appears that there was a deviation from procedure for carrying out his activity. As such, Eskom has undertaken to place those employees who were responsible to manage and execute this work under precautionary suspension pending the conclusion of the investigation,” said the company.

Mop-up operations were initiated in late August. According to Eskom spokesperson Sikhonathi Mantshantsha, the mop up operations form part of investigations. He also added that it is too early to talk about any disciplinary process for the suspended workers.

“As soon as the clearing of the debris is complete, the turbine will be open again. This is part of the investigation which will assess the damage and find conclusively what the cause of the explosive was. Once all that work is done they will then assess the damage and how long it will take and what it is that need to be replaced. It’s too early to talk about DC processes as we have stated previously, this will form part of the investigation,” he said.

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Dennis Ayemba
Country/ Features Editor, Kenya

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