Tshwane procures coal that fails to ignite

Pretoria - The City of Tshwane has allegedly procured coal that does not ignite for its Pretoria West power station.

A senior employee stationed at the power station has told News24 that tons of coal has been shelved and new ones ordered after it was discovered it does not ignite.

“The coal that was brought in does not burn. Right now it has been put aside as new one [coal] is being delivered,” he said.

The city has admitted to the coal not igniting, but would not comment on why the coal was not returned to the supplier.

The source said the coal was bought from Lurco Coal, one of Eskom’s suppliers. It is alleged that this was the second batch of deficient coal supplied by the same company.

City spokesperson Lindela Mashigo confirmed they had procured coal from the company. He explained that the station uses high calorific value (CV) of coal. Mashigo said in order to be able to get the right quality of coal mixture, the company was requested to deliver a certain quantity to be tested at the station.

Not lighting

“The first quantity of coal was tested for the correct combustion. When there was not enough combustion, it was discovered that the CVs and volatiles of the coal might be problematic. This coal was removed so that when a second batch is received there shouldn’t be a mixing of the two batches,” Mashigo said.

Asked why the coal was not returned to the company despite new batches being ordered, Mashigo said they were in “discussions”.

“Discussions on achieving the correct CVs and volatiles are ongoing with all the suppliers, Lurco has been the first one to be requested to submit the sample for burning,” he said.

Mashigo would not be drawn to comment on whether the three-year contract signed with the company would be terminated in favour of a new supplier. He said the city had paid an estimate of R8m for the delivered coal.

“The City is working with suppliers as well as SABS to get the correct mixture of required CV and volatiles; if any supplier can’t supply the correct quality of required coal the City will not place further orders,” Mashigo said.

‘Old’ power station

Spokesperson for the company, Willem Eksteen confirmed that they were supplying City of Tshwane with coal and maintained that the coal supplied was of high quality. He said the problems being experienced could be due to the age and nature of the power station itself.

"It is pertinent to note that the power station in question has been out of operation for a very long time and is being brought back into operation. In any power station there needs to be a clear match between the technology deployed in the particular power station and the coal that is used to generate the power.

"This is especially true in an older specification power station like the one in question. The supply and trial process for the exact correct parameters and coal volatility match is underway. The process is conducted with the required scientific and technical expertise of the skilled team of Lurco and its business partners," said Eksteen.

He added that the company was committed to the relationship and to the coal supply for the generation of power for the City of Tshwane.

The source questioned why the city did not question the capacity and the quality of coal the company was supplying when the first batch did not ignite.

“The company brought in small trucks with coal to be tested but the first batch did not ignite. They were ordered to take them back and brought a second batch for testing. It was successful and the bigger trucks with tons of coal were brought in,” said the source.

Power for one week

The source said when one takes into consideration the dynamics of operating a power station, the coal effectively allowed the station to only produce power for one week. He said during the first week, they warm up the boilers by burning coal without any energy being harnessed. In the second week they start generating power and supplying it to the grid.

“The station supplied power to the grid for one week and then it had to be taken off the grid as the coal was not igniting. We started burning coal from the second week of August for warming and the station was online for a week in September,” he said.

The man said the coal was put aside and they had to wait for new coal to be delivered.

“It is worrying because it is not being taken back. It means more money is spent when new coal is brought in,” he said.

The source added that when coal is put aside, it gets left there for many years. He said four years ago, a similar incident happened with coal that did not ignite but to this day, the coal was still there at the station.

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