Serving up a POWER-GEN-sized slice of colossal Kusile


As part of the inaugural POWER-GEN Africa, taking place at the Sandton Convention Centre from 6-8 November, an intrepid group of delegates had a unique opportunity to visit Kusile, which once operational will be the fourth largest coal-fired power installation in the world.

By its scheduled 2018 completion date the station, located in Mpumalanga province, will have a total capacity of 4800 MW. The first of its six 800 MW units is due to commence operations in 2014.

Under development by South African state-owned utility Eskom, Kusile is the country’s most technologically advanced coal plant and will be the first to feature flue gas desulphurisation (FGD), a key environmental objective for Eskom.

A base-load facility, Kusile forms part of Eskom’s plan to increase its total generation capacity by some 40 GW by 2025, almost doubling its existing generation portfolio.

Overall it is expected to provide 11% of Eskom’s total grid supply and represents a capital investment of around R$161 billion (US$18.5 billion). Financing came from a combination of Eskom, a government guarantee and international development banks such as the AfDB, World Bank and also the US EXIM bank.

Following a safety induction, the delegates were given a full tour of this impressive construction site, which currently employs some 12,000 workers. This number is expected to top 14,000 during the peak construction phase in the middle of 2013, and even when operational it will employ more than 600 permanent staff.

Working with engineering group Black & Veatch, there are some 58 key contractors involved in the project. Major OEMs include boiler manufacturer Hitachi Power Europe’s African unit and Alstom, which is supplying the steam turbines. Electrical suppliers include Siemens providing the generators, transformers and cabling and ABB the medium voltage distribution equipment.

In the water-constrained region of South Africa a novel feature of this plant is its use of air-cooled condensing technology – direct dry cooling which significantly reduces the plant’s water requirements. The six condensing units comprise 64 fans, each with a 10 metre diameter, and associated radiators. These units stand atop 60 metre concrete piles.

A consortium of four South African players are responsible for the civil-engineering works on this colossal project, including six giant lift shafts, which are already in place.

The delegates also got a close up view of the two 220 metre-high stacks, with each fed by three boilers, and which are currently awaiting fitment of steel liners.

Among Kusile’s many impressive statistics, delegates learned some 13,000 meals are provided on a daily basis, 80% of which are made on the 1500 ha site. This equates to serving 2000 meals during every 30-minute lunch sitting.

As remarkable as Kusile’s construction site is, delegates also had the opportunity to explore the nearby Kendal coal-fired plant, also operated by Eskom.

With construction launched back in 1982, this 4116 MW plant became fully operational in 1993. It too uses dry air cooling to conserve constrained water resources. However, in contrast with Kusile this plant uses indirect dry-cooling and as such presents six large concrete cooling towers which use natural convection air currents.

Again, delegates took the opportunity to enjoy a full tour of this plant, which was operating at full load during the visit.

By joining the tour, delegates got to appreciate the intricacies of an operational coal-fired installation and gain a great insight into the scale of the civil, mechanical and electrical engineering skills such demanding projects require.

If all this sounds like a great day out to you, then visit the POWER-GEN Africa and Renewable Energy World Africa event at the Sandton Convention Centre this week.

Creating dialogue is a key focus of the event, which features a conference and exhibition, under the theme “Global Technology for Local Solutions.” Conference speakers include international experts, who will share knowledge and solutions as they engage with the local industry to strategise, plan, prepare and move forward to meet the growing energy needs being driven by Africa’s economic growth.

According to Nigel Blackaby, event director and director of conferences at the PennWell International Power Group UK, the three-track conference programme, which spans strategic and technical issues as well as renewable energy generation, offers broad content that ranges from investment models to plant operations and maintenance techniques and all facets in between.

The expo features exhibitors from 18 countries, including the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, China, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, Finland and South Africa. For further information visit

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