Eskom’s Kusile power station is now half-finished – 13 years after construction started

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Eskom has announced that another unit at its coal-powered Kusile Power Station in Mpumalanaga has achieved commercial operation status, bringing the completion of the power plant to its halfway mark.

Commercial operation means that the unit has now met the requirements for full technical, statutory, safety, and legal compliance.

“This brings to three the number of generation units that have achieved commercial status at the project, generating a maximum 2,400MW to support the South African power grid,” Eskom said.

“Bringing the 800MW unit to commercial status means construction activity has come to an end on half of the eMalahleni, Mpumalanga project.”

The power utility labeled the progress as a significant milestone, following two years of rigorous testing and optimisation since the unit was first synchronised into the grid in April 2019.

The commercial operation marked the contractual handover of the unit from the principal contractors to Eskom’s Generation division.

Eskom said that the construction, testing, and optimisation of the remaining three units – some of which are already providing intermittent power to the grid – are progressing well.

“Eskom is proud of its team at Kusile, who have delivered this third unit with extreme dedication, and working under challing conditions during periods of load-shedding and COVID-19 restrictions,” it said.

9 year delay

Kusile is the first power station in South Africa to use wet flue gas desulphurisation (WFGD) technology, which is capable of removing oxides of sulphur from the exhaust flue gas in power plants that burn coal or oil.

This technology reduces the impact of its emissions to ensure compliance with air quality standards.

According to energy expert Chris Yelland, construction of Kusile started in 2008 and all six units were originally planned to be completed by 2014.

However, by 2019 only Unit 1 was in commercial operation.

The project encountered significant delays due to various technical modifications which had to be made to the station as a result of major design problems.

Its full completion has been delayed until 2023.

The project is on the L2B site, PPA3858

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