One of Medupi’s six 800MW units will not meet its deadline to deliver power to the grid by the end of the year, Eskom said on Monday.
“Eskom has confirmed that the December 2013 target date is unlikely to be met. A more realistic target for the first synchronisation of unit six to the grid is the second half of 2014,” the state power utility said in a statement.
This was because of technical problems. “Eskom earlier communicated that critical technical challenges need to be resolved in order for unit six to begin producing power. These challenges relate to the welding on the boilers, and the control and instrumentation systems for the units. In addition are the ongoing labour challenges.”
The “critical” issues on the boiler related to inadequate post-weld heat treatment, and the replacement of welds which were made using unqualified procedures.
The Medupi power station in Limpopo was expected to make its first contribution to the grid in 2013 and Kusile, in Mpumalanga, in 2014.
It was initially expected that unit six would be the first of Medupi’s units to deliver “first power” to the grid.
Eskom said “effective” interventions had been put in place to address the problems, and the progress of repairs was being monitored.
Last month, Eskom, the contractors, and labour signed a new partnering agreement to bring stability and improved productivity.
“All of us on site are now focused on delivering the power station, on time, on budget, safely, and to the required quality standards,” Eskom finance director Paul O’Flaherty said.
Eskom had engaged with Hitachi and Alstom to resolve the technical problems on the boiler and control and instrumentation contracts.
It had also put skills and resources in place to ensure performance by the contractors.
On labour relations, it said processes had been developed to address grievances, and salary discrepancies were being removed.
In January, Eskom temporarily closed the power station when contract workers went on strike. Construction of the coal-fired power plant was also interrupted in September last year when workers downed tools.
Workers belonging to the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) had questioned the way in which their year-end bonuses were calculated, and complained that employees who lived in the area were paid less than workers who came in from Johannesburg.
Public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba intervened in the matter to ensure the deadline was met.
In March, Gigaba said the deadline would not change.
“For now, having received the detailed technical plans from the primary contractors in regards to what they must do to meet the December deadline — which I am adamant will not be changed without strict penalties being imposed on the contractors should they fail to meet their obligations — I am unprepared to accept any review for the delivery schedule,” Gigaba said at the time.
He said Eskom had to do more to manage the contractors and the project itself. — Sapa