Wednesday, January 26

Maintenance delayed due to Eskom overspending on emergency diesel

Eskom has suspended several key people at its Tutuka power plant and is even expecting arrests due to the “shocking state of neglect” which has largely contributed to the low availability of its power plants.

This, along with three major incidents, one each month since August, has contributed to cargo shedding every night since Saturday and will continue through Tuesday.

This was revealed in Eskom’s quarterly system update, where Eskom executives showed a brave face in light of further deterioration in plant performance and a worrying outlook.

Read the latest about Eskom and load shedding here.

In the absence of its chief executive, Andre de Ruyter, who is in Europe for the COP26 climate conference, Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer admitted that the “maintaining reliability” announced early last year is taking longer. in showing results.

Oberholzer repeatedly apologized for the current and recent cargo drop.

On Sunday, plant availability was just 58.5% versus a target of 70%. The average so far for the current fiscal year is 65.3%, which compares poorly with 67.9% the previous year.

The utility, meanwhile, is using its diesel-burning open cycle gas turbines (OCGTs) extensively to keep the lights (mostly) on. According to Eskom group generation executive Phillip Dukashe, the utility has produced 772 GWh from its own OCGT so far this year, compared to a full-year provision of 211GWh. It indicates a load factor of 7.3% at the end of the year compared to a target of 1%.

So far, the OCGT bill is R2.5 billion. This makes it increasingly difficult for state-owned companies with liquidity problems to have money available for maintenance, he explained.

Consequently, the performance of the generation is deteriorating rapidly.

So far this year, Eskom has experienced 342 unit trips against a target of 196, 4,612MW head losses versus a 3,969MW target, and 23.1% unplanned head losses versus a 18% target. Oberholzer said.

Dukashe said he was surprised when a new power plant manager, appointed in February, recently took him on a tour of Tutuka, located near Standerton. “I used to work at Tutuka. I couldn’t believe the awful state he’s in, ”he said.

Eskom spokesman Sikonathi Mantshantsha added that the six units at Tutuka, each with a capacity of 609MW, were in operation two weeks ago “for the first time since 2019.”

Dukashe showed that Tutuka has been the biggest contributor to unplanned breakages so far this year.

Station contribution to total UCLF

F2022 September 30 YTD –23.14%

Source: Eskom

The three main incidents have together further reduced available generation capacity by more than 2,000 MW.

These are:

  • An explosion at Medupi’s unit 4 (720 MW) on August 8, just a week after the entire power plant was completed and finally delivered. A preliminary investigation report has been submitted showing that Eskom staff deviated from prescribed procedures. The generator, turbine and auxiliary plant were damaged and the unit could be out of service for up to two years.
  • A fire at Kendal Unit 1 (640 MW) on September 11 resulted in damage to the civil structure. It is expected to be operational again in December. The cause of the fire is not yet clear, but Eskom is investigating possible design flaws.
  • On October 24, Koeberg’s unit 1 (920MW) fired a second time after returning to service on September 3 after a 75-day outage. Oberholzer said there is no nuclear danger, but added that Eskom is “extremely concerned that two trips have been made in Unit 1 after such a prolonged outage.”

Meanwhile, the maintenance program aimed at reducing load shedding is being delayed.

Dukashe explained the severe challenges to the reliability maintenance program that aims to correct years of neglect and overuse of the generation fleet.

Of the 84 outages scheduled for the year ending March 31, only 18 have been completed and another nine are ongoing. Another 22 have been postponed for later this year and ten for the next year, leaving 25 remaining.

Source: Eskom

He explained that proper planning before a major outage is crucial. Some spare parts must be ordered 24 months in advance. If the budget is not available or the delivery of money to the generation unit is delayed, this impacts not only the specific unit, but also the entire maintenance program.

Eskom has budgeted R8.5 billion in the current financial year for running maintenance and another R8 billion for outages.

Oberholzer said this must be seen in the context of Eskom’s 400 billion rand debt load, which has left it with huge interest payments and a liquidity crisis. Therefore, CFO Calib Cassim has to carefully assess competing claims when allocating cash.

Dukashe further complained that the procurement processes are hampering the maintenance program, as key long-term contracts have not yet been finalized but are carried out on a month-to-month basis. He also said leadership is often lacking at the power plant level. Eskom has lost many key members of its trained staff and the necessary “vigilance and urgency” is often lacking.

Oberholzer confirmed that not enough progress has been made in improving Eskom’s procurement processes.

According to Dukashe, the generation fleet remains unreliable and unpredictable.

This is mainly solved by small revisions and general revisions.

It will be another three years before they are completed at all coal-fired power plants.

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