Crucial Medupi water supply delayed

2015-02-01 15:00

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An alleged row within the department of water and sanitation is threatening water supply to Eskom’s already delayed Medupi Power Station.

Two sources involved in the process claim a deputy director-general in the department, whose name is known to City Press, refuses to give the go-ahead for the R11.3 billion second phase of the Mokolo Crocodile Water Augmentation Project.

A source sympathetic to the deputy director-general said she was being targeted because of her anticorruption stance.

It is not clear if she has particular misgivings about the Mokolo Crocodile Water Augmentation Project, or what these might be.

But an insider in the department told City Press the deputy director-general was not on good terms with the contractor, the Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA), and was deliberately making life difficult for them.

The official referred all of City Press’ questions to the department itself.

Two sources within the department, with knowledge of the project, said her reluctance to work with the TCTA was endangering Medupi’s future water supply.

TCTA did not respond to emailed questions.

The long-delayed power station will rely entirely on this project for its water – Medupi’s annual demand will be 15.4?million cubic metres.

Phase 1 of the augmentation project will provide 30?million cubic metres a year, with Medupi receiving 10.9?million cubic metres of the first phase’s water and the rest going to coal mines and other developments in Lephalale. This phase, which has cost R1.5?billion and is expected to be commissioned in March, provides water to industry from the Mokolo Dam.

This phase is now nearing completion, but Medupi needs Phase 2 – a water transfer scheme from the Crocodile River near Thabazimbi – to make up the shortfall.

The department of water and sanitation’s Sputnik Ratau said the project was waiting for guarantees from Treasury before it could proceed.

Ratau said this had happened last week.

“The [environmental impact assessment] process could not begin before the National Treasury had approved the guarantees for TCTA to raise funding. The assessment process will get under way now that the necessary guarantee has been received,” he said.

Ratau said no specific individual in the department had the authority to issue a directive of this nature. He estimated construction would begin in 2017.

The augmentation project is crucial to Medupi’s World Bank loan, which stipulates the power station must be fitted with flue gas desulphurisation, a mechanism to control emissions.

But this mechanism will triple Medupi’s water use and cannot be installed on all six of the plant’s units until additional water is available.

An energy expert in the department of water and sanitation told City Press the necessary filters would need water from Phase 2 of the augmentation project to work properly.

The expert, who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media, also said there were concerns Phase 1 of the water project would come under a lot of strain. Medupi would have to run at maximum capacity to keep South Africa’s lights on consistently.

“Taking into consideration all the delays in Phase 1 of the water project and all the construction obstacles around Medupi, we need Phase 2 to have started yesterday,” the expert added.

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