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Earlier this week, South Africa's power utility Eskom, revealed that it’s coal stockpiles are running low.

In order to fully understand the nature of the situation and what mitigation measures the power utility is devising, ESI Africa followed up on the story.

In correspondence with ESI Africa, the power utility narrated the coal situation in more depth.

“Eskom currently has operational capacity but not surplus capacity, however, this is expected to change as new build units come online,” the power utility noted. Read more: Eskom reports low coal stockpiles

Below are the challenges as well as the actions that were put in place to manage the challenges facing the company.

Challenges

  • Loss of experienced skills to international utilities as well as suspended staff
  • Loss of Koeberg skills to Abu Dhabi could impact outage quality in particular
  • Very low coal stockpile levels at 9 stations
  • Much higher OCGT usage

The company also noted that the rainy season and low coal stock levels exacerbate the risk of security of supply from November.

Actions to be taken

  • Deployment of technology staff to stations to assist in plant recovery and improvement
  • Working with service providers on best practices
  • Additional funding for essential maintenance has been acquired
  • Focused teams on full and partial load loss recovery and improvement
  • Contract experienced and skilled resource(s)

“Two tender enquiries issued in 2017 are at negotiation stage of the procurement process, and as such, no contracts have been concluded as yet.

“However, 18 million tonnes of coal has been contracted from urgent Request for Proposals issued in 2017 and 2018,” Eskom revealed.

Recovering coal stock levels

The company noted that the amount of time it took to conclude new contracts and to transfer Medupi coal is putting pressure on its plans to recover all coal stock levels rapidly.

“There are 10 stations below the Eskom prescribed minimum stock levels, four of which are below 10 days. This is not an ideal situation,” the company noted.

In conclusion, the power utility said it has placed 14 contracts since January 2018, with a further 12 contracts imminent, all with suppliers in Mpumalanga.  An additional pipeline of contracts is said to be under negotiation.

Eskom concluded: “These contracts will stop the decline in coal stock levels which was aggravated by the Tegeta suppliers going under business rescue and not supplying coal. The Tegeta failure to supply impact to Eskom since February 2018 is a 713Kt per month shortfall or 8.5Mt per annum.

“To manage the situation at Tegeta affected power stations – namely Hendrina, Komati and Majuba – Eskom had to transfer coal away from stations with healthy stock levels.”