'Heartbeat' of Kusile Unit 1 nearing completion

Cape Town – The “heartbeat” of Eskom’s Kusile Unit 1 is nearing completion, signalling an important milestone in the coal power station’s journey to feed much needed electricity into the national grid.

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe likened the control and instrumentation (C&I) facility at Kusile to “the heartbeat of the power station”.

“The facility is like an engine room where you can see every component of the power station... It is equivalent to an aircraft’s black box and records everything,” he said.  

The 4 800 MW Kusile power station will comprise six units of 800 MW each and is under construction near eMalahleni (Witbank) in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa.

Power and automation company ABB on Thursday said that it was on schedule to complete automation for Generating Unit 1 of Kusile “with successful factory acceptance tests of the balance-of-plant and the unit performed late last year”.

“With record timing as a key deliverable of such an intrinsically complex project, there is excellent cooperation between the Eskom and ABB teams with very strict monitoring on each element of the project to ensure that deadlines are adhered to,” ABB’s power generation business managing director Kevin Kosisko said in a statement.

ABB’s early milestone comes after a debacle in which Eskom in April 2015 effectively terminated the R1bn C&I contract initially awarded to Alstom.

Shortly thereafter Eskom announced that it had appointed ABB South Africa to execute the C&I contract. The ABB contract was valued at about $160m (approx. R1.5bn), and it was understood that ABB would essentially be starting the C&I Works at Kusile from scratch.

As part of the order, ABB is supplying the control system, software and instrumentation solutions for the station’s generating units which are set to be fully operational by the last quarter of 2022.

Phasiwe said that once the C&I facility was up and running it would mark the halfway point to “starting up the power station”.

“It’s an indicator in terms of how far you are with the power station. By the first half of 2018 this unit (1) will be up and running,” he said.

Kusile power plant belongs to a new generation of high-pressure, high temperature thermal power installations known as supercritical plants, which are more efficient than conventional coal-fired plants, featuring lower emissions and fuel costs.

Kusile will be the first plant in Africa to use wet flue gas desulphurisation technology in all boilers.

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