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Medupi explosion may push SA blackouts to record

The blast at the Medupi station on Sunday occurred during a process to find an external leak, according to preliminary findings.
Image: AdobeStock

South Africa faces a record year for power outages after an explosion damaged one of the state-owned electricity utility’s newest coal-fired generation units.

The blast at the Medupi station on Sunday occurred during a process to find an external leak, according to preliminary findings. “At this point we do not have details as to what it will cost and how long it will take to repair the generator,” Eskom said in a reply to questions.

The incident threatens to unravel any progress made by the utility to improve performance and avoid more power cuts that have crimped the economic growth in Africa’s most-industrialized nation. It adds to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and last month’s deadly riots on the economy.

Eskom pledged in March that a maintenance drive to improve performance of its aging fleet of coal-fired plants would start showing results from September. The incident at the Medupi station, which is being constructed at a cost of about R135 billion ($9.1 billion), demonstrates the utility’s inability to prevent faults throughout the power grid.

Blackouts through the first half of 2021 were equivalent to about 70% of last year’s unprecedented outages, according to data from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

“The damage is extensive” and will involve replacing equipment, said Anton Eberhard, a professor at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business. From the insurance claim to ordering the parts, the entire process could take at least two years, he said.

Eskom found that there was a deviation from procedure that led to the incident and placed managers involved under precautionary suspension pending the conclusion of an investigation.

“At this point there is no basis to suspect any malicious intent for the unfortunate incident,” it said.

© 2021 Bloomberg

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On the upside, they won’t have to look for the leak any more.

Eskom will be for the ANC, what Chernobil was for the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The policy of cadre deployment creates an explosive situation in any economy.

Im not sure what the international community saw in the ANC before 94.

Where is this international community today to stop this ANC gang from destroying this country?

Your comment supports the Dunning-Kruger theory that states that “the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others”. Intelligent people tend to think that stangers are equally intelligent and competent, while stupid people never doubt their own capability. Stupid people never realise that they are stupid, and they believe that they are as competent as the intelligent people.

This why the ANC believes they are “ready to govern.” The Dunning-Kruger effect explains our Debt/GDP ratio, unemployment rate, state capture and imploding municipalities. Incompetent people always believe they are competent, while intelligent people doubt their own capability.

The ratio between competent people and incompetent people determines the future of the nation in a democracy.

Thanks Sensei. Your reply makes perfect sense.

With this I can understand why Cyril is making the appointments that he is making. From fired minister to Speaker of Parliament: Mapisa-Nqakula is ANC’s candidate. (https://www.news24.com/news24/southafrica/news/from-fired-minister-to-speaker-of-parliament-mapisa-nqakula-is-ancs-candidate-20210811)

Cyril only sees competence in his people.

Also explains why Debt/GDP ratio (as well as other indicators) is not a problem for the politician (along the lines of your reasoning) … they dont see it as a problem… they believe that you can print money or get it from the IMF…. BUT no concern that someone has to work for it.

The future of this nation is a concern … I do hope more people wake up to the reality of the situation before it is too late.

I posted the gist of this comment in another article on Moneyweb yesterday but think it is more apt here. The explosion in the generator set was massive. The generator assembly weights approximately 360 tons and is directly connected to the turbine sections (on the left, photo 1, high pressure steam line protruding from the top). Photo 1 clearly shows that the generator set failed due to massive overpressure. The two end caps (green circular components on either side) opened up by fracturing in excess of a 100 high strength steel bolts around the circumference of the flange. A quick calculation (assuming dimensions and material properties) implies an internal pressure of 5 MPa or 50 atmospheres (probably more likely a 100 by the looks of things). The access door in the center of the generator is blow clean off, once again having fractured all bolts around its periphery. Door is missing and the adjacent railing is clearly bent back. That nobody got hurt is a miracle. A further indication is the size of some bolts that are clearly visible on the floor in photo 2. 50 mm diameter at least. To fracture these requires massive forces. Just one such a bolt requires approximately 150 tons in tensile load. The extent of the damage to the roof of the building is extensive and extends to what looks like at least beyond the next turbine generator set. Must have been a massive pressure blast. One hopes the turbine sets are OK. They must have been subjected to a massive jolt. At least their internals is isolated from the generator cooling system where the problem occurred but they “will” be out of alignment etc. This is going to take a very long time to fix and will be massively expensive. You do not buy these things off the shelf, they are custom made, in this case by Siemens in Germany I believe. It is probably beyond repair and that implies a new generator set. Place the order now, manufacture, transportation, installation, turbine hall roof and structural repair. Anybody want to place you bets. Just think about the logistics required to transport a massive component like this. At least a year? Maybe they are lucky? P.s The initial cost for the electrical installation on Medupi for all 6 generators was costed at approximately 3 Billion Rand before escalation. We all know where this ended up eventually. Make you own estimates about what this is going to cost?

Only hope I see is that insurance was in place, adequate and that there is no reason to deny the claim (failure to follow procedures etc). Eskom seems to have learnt little from explosions etc at Duvha and Lethabo.

A cadre plus hydrogen = hydrogen bomb. How does anybody accept the risk to sell insurance on the structural integrity of a hydrogen bomb?

God help SA if the ANC starts building nuclear power stations. On the upside, its unlikely any of us would see a new nuclear power station completed within the next two generations even if they broke ground tomorrow.

Proudly brought to you by the ANC….

It seems the people in charge only passed their training courses with a 30% pass mark.

What, so high….?

Why do they not use argon which is a inert gas?
Can anyone tell me please?

Purely because it is a cheap gas with very high specific heat enthalpy (capacity to remove heat) –Remember this is not a water cooled plant !

End of comments.

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