Medupi units drowning in ash as contractor forced to withdraw

Eskom power shortage may deepen, large users say.
Ash build-up at Medupi Unit 3 as seen on Monday morning. Picture: Supplied

The five power generation units at Eskom’s troubled new Medupi power station that have been operational are drowning in ash after Clyde Bergemann Africa (CBZ), which was contracted to supply and construct the dust handling units, withdrew its staff from the power station.

CBZ managing director Jeremy Kirsch confirmed to Moneyweb on Monday that the business was placed in business rescue last week, days after he spoke out about what he described as Eskom’s failure to operate the plant at the completed units properly.

CBZ has long-term maintenance contracts on eight other Eskom power stations, Kirsch told Moneyweb. CBZ staff are still on site at those power stations, he said.

EE Publishers managing editor Chris Yelland however reported last week that these workers are “on tenterhooks” and could down tools at any time.

As far as Moneyweb could establish at least four of the five operational units at Medupi were working on Monday, although at least one of these was said to be operating at only half the expected output.

Ash ‘abrasive, enormously damaging’

Kirsch warned last week that “ash is abrasive … it will grind things away quickly”. He criticised Eskom for failing to attend to problems at the plant immediately and said things are left for days while ash is being spewed all over. By the time the problem is fixed, the damage is enormous, he said.

In addition, Eskom buys spares from CBZ – and Eskom’s GM for Group Technology Titus Mathe stated recently (at national energy regulator Nersa’s public hearings about a proposed tariff increase for Eskom) that the utility was battling to get the necessary spares due to CBZ’s financial pressures.

CBZ’s problems only add to Eskom’s headaches, with seven units tripping within five hours on Monday. This necessitated Stage 4 load shedding, with Eskom reducing the electricity load by 4 000MW to protect the system from total collapse.

This means Eskom was unable to supply the demand of around 29 000MW. According to Eskom’s own data this is low compared to similar periods in previous years.

Source: Eskom

The utility has said in the past that a total system collapse could result in a blackout lasting two to three weeks, with power stations being started up one by one.

According to Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe, Monday was the first time since about 2013/14 that Eskom had to reduce the load by as much as 4 000MW.

No diesel

Eskom did not give detail on Monday about which units had tripped. According to Moneyweb sources the technicians were battling to get some units at the Grootvlei Power Station back online and the open-cycle gas turbines at the Gourikwa and Ankerlig power stations were out of diesel.

Energy Intensive User Group (EIUG) spokesperson Shaun Nel told Moneyweb last night that the organisation, which represents Eskom’s large industrial users, is concerned that the crisis might deepen later in the week because Eskom has been unable to replenish its diesel stack as well as the water for its pump storage units.

Nel said the EIUG agreed with Eskom on Monday to form a technical team that will meet regularly with the system operator to identify where EIUG members can assist with technical skills to improve plant performance.

He said that Eskom acknowledged the need for more transparency about its problems and the need to work together to find solutions.

Eskom said in a statement on Monday night that four of the seven units that tripped on Monday morning were already back in service and that the remaining three were expected to be operational on Tuesday morning.

Six-hour meeting with Gordhan

It said the Eskom board had held an urgent meeting with public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan following the announcement of load shedding on Sunday.

The meeting lasted more than six hours, with the board, Eskom management and representatives of the department delving deep into the problems at the old and new power stations, Eskom said.

It promised a systems and operations update within the next 24 hours.

Eskom said its board “has resolved to institute an urgent review to establish when, realistically, these projects [the Medupi and Kusile power stations] will be completed, the extent of design and other operational faults, what steps can be implemented to minimise the ever-escalating costs and what can be done to increase output.

“The board is also urgently embarking on an in-depth audit of the entire system to ensure that every technical problem is understood at a granular level and to avoid unexpected crises as seen today.”



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In any normal democracy this would be enough to oust the ruling party, but not in South Africa where the corrupt ANC have mastered the art of abusing the many ignorant voters.

Look on the Bright Side – Everyone is Saving Money!!!

+ less revenue due to loss of business = means less income tax = more pressure on the tax payer to support a corrupt government.

the bright side….this crisis will hopefully, although temporarily, divert the CRANC government from their land grab policy.

I get the humour, but we pay a fixed rate for 3 phase directy from eksdom. Our electronics suffer,we can not pump water and irrigate. Obviously we run generators,but smiles a side it cost more – everything.

He was, and so too was RW Johsnon, who notes in his ‘sequel’ book “How long will SA survive?” that SA can either choose to have a modern industrial economy of the ANC, it cannot have both.

If you want to see what “decolonisation” looks like, this is it.

Now been Colon…ized.

at last someone addressing the elephant in the room directly without being censored……..”they simply cannot govern a country”

Seeing how Eskom is run (incl. a R419bn debt & counting) as an SOE, I simply CANNOT WAIT for the National Health Insurance (NHI) to come into full “operation”!

Somehow, miraculously, that will suddenly be well run by our capable Govt….

Obviously they haven’t employed enough people to sweep up the ash.

It’s a bit more complicated than employing more people to sweep up the ash…150 t/hr of it. There is much more to this than meets the eye. The ash removal system should not be spewing ash outside of the system in the first place. When the contractor was awarded the project 4 or 5 years ago my colleagues and I discussed buying bigger generators!

Please explain in technical terms?

Sadly everything they touch eventually turns to ashes !!! Viva ANC viva.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust
If it wasn´t for Jacob,
we wouldn´t be bust

*lol*…yup, with the PROOF in front of our eyes., Aish…uhm, Ash.

At least (and I am really trying hard to find the silver lining here) there seems to be a slight improvement in the willingness of Eskom to admit the status of the grid and to communicate events and actions to the victims, err… I mean customers.
Under the previous regime we would have just gotten an endless stream of lies from fools in expensive suits. And a dismissive giggle from Number One, if we were really lucky.

Umm… I hate to break it to you but it’s still the same regime, just with a different face. What we need is regime change.

I missed something. Why was CBZ forced to withdraw? Non-payment by Eskom, or something else?

Both sides pointing fingers. It seems to me that CBZ blames Eskom for poor handling and management on site and Eskom blames CBZ for design flaws and poor build quality. CBZ is being owed multiples of millions which is not forthcoming & are currently losing approx R5 million per month at Kusile and Medupi. They cannot stay solvent without the Eskom payments.

Read my response further up. The blame game is standard practice and if Eskom has not paid I am not at all surprised!

Incompetent people in jobs they don’t know anything about. This a direct result of cadre deployment. I miss John Maree. Maybe some of those guys who have been retrenched over the last 25 years because of their skin colour would be prepared to come back and dig you out of this hole?

John Maree would never have allowed this. We still would have the cheapest power in the world.

Tomorrow’s problems are tomorrow’s. Today’s problems are because of yesterday’s poor planning for today but still tomorrow’s problems are tomorrow’s!

…..yip… that’s Africa. If it ain’t buggard, don’t touch…

As for maintinance? …whats that word?

I doubt there is a word in Pedi for maintenance. In any event it’s a western concept which needs to be decolonised.

The root cause of Eskom’s incompetance is (a) BBBEE, (b) Cadre deployment and (c) Union control. Eliminate and rectify all of these.

Actually only one reason … the ANC.

This is supposed to be the flagship of Radical Economic Transformation (RET), isn’t it?

A likely foretaste of the proposed NHI and government-run health scheme services, no doubt …?

No worries, i’m sure an “in-depth audit” will sort it all out.


And another “war room” conflab at a colonial 5 star hotel!

No, sadly an “in-depth audit” will not sort it out, only a Commission will, any day now they will announce a new Commission that will investigate what went wrong and how to fix it.

In the SOE cases (Eksdom included) I now start to believe the following:
Democracy is the pathetic believe in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.

And wasn’t it Pravin himself who rolled over meekly to union demands to give above inflation increases AND an additional bonus to all Eskom employees ? Tell me again, who is running this country ?

Exactly. The original plan from the Eskom board was to give no increases and then that was followed by a week of sabotage by the unions and then Pravin forced them to cave into the unions. We know that it’s an election year so they won’t take any tough decisions but the problem is that it is making the turnaround bill exponentially higher.

Pravin is the architect of our debt. Trevor Manuel handed Pravin a golden cheque book in 2008 – low debt/GDP, good fiscus and monetry policy. And where did Pravin spend the money… Public sector salaries. Juicy yummy salaries, and infinite public sector employment. (Should’ve bought Merc and BMW shares in hindsight).

He will always be a Union softy. Appeasing the voters. I think there was enough hot air generated in that six hour meeting to power Medupi.

Business rescue appears to be the safe house of choice where bad businessmen run to try and get ahead of personal liability. It has gone too far. Eskom should via urgent court application be allowed to take over operational control of CBZ spares and staff.

Except now Eskom can’t because nobody can institute legal action against a company in business rescue.

CBZ is an international company. Do you think they went into business rescue overnight? You make it seem as though Eskom is innocent in all of this. On these projects, they are the managers of the whole thing. Normally this is left to a company with experience to do it. That’s partially why they are so late and overbudget.

They are NOT an international company. The international holding company got out a long time ago. The “stories” about successful systems in China were done by the international company not the local business. Smoke and mirrors…


The local company is in business rescue.

Somebody that should know what he is talking about indicated that Eskom would have a very strong case to sue for design incompetence. They designed, supplied, commissioned and were supposed to maintain the ash system. Business rescue suspends the ability to sue them. Eskom better hope their contracts stipulated professional indemnity insurance but some of those also have clauses that invalidate insurance when the insured commits an act of insolvency or is placed under judicial management.

In 40 years time somebody will write a book about the ‘old’ South Africa, and an ANC spokesman will admit:

“In my days we spend most of our money on alkohol, cars and women, and maybe some on corruption, and the rest of the money we just squandered.”

I think as a nation we are far too forgiving, wonder what will happen from now onwards with Eskom. First government will establish a commission and take 6 months to set it up, then we will have numerous talking heads telling everyone what’s wrong (which we already know), the commission will have numerous recesses to evaluate all the submissions. Then if we are luck a minister may take action against a few cadres and we will go on our merry way to destruction of the country at the hands of the ANC. The only saving grace we have with all these blackouts is that even those who steal electricity are also disadvantaged – roll on blackouts and roll on elections

Don’t you believe it ! A quick glance at e.g. Cape Town’s map of Load Shedding Schedules reveals that all the townships and informal settlements are EXEMPT from a turn at load shedding.
Do you think Hairman would dare cut the supply of free electricity to Soweto or Orange Farm?

The citizens get the ash and the looters get the cash.

And still the ANC will get the votes in May. Crazy stuff.

You have to think about the people on those plants that have to work in those conditions. It’s disgraceful. This situation has not happened overnight. And currently Eskom is drowning due to lack of maintenance, no spares, incompetence and a wage bill that is too high to sustain. The fixes are tough ones but because it’s an election year, they won’t come and the repair will just continue to rise.

So much for COAL power…

The ASH at Medudi unit 3 is NOTHING! Have anyone seen the MOUNTAINS of ASH accumulating at the Wind-turbine plant near Jeffreys Bay or even Gouda?
Or the huge ash buildup near one of the Jasper or Lesedi PV-SOLAR plants in the Northern Cape?

(…those that have already PV-solar units installed on your roofs, just go and periodically check it…there may be ash build-up without you knowing it..) *lol*

The chickens are coming home to roost now — big time! If the whole system fails, then we will see something. 2-3 weeks of no power, can you imagine the chaos?

…2-3 weeks to get the power grid up again? That’s what I call optimism. Way longer. Remember the capable people we’re dealing with.

Most of the comments entirely correct and entirely predictable since we have all (myself included) been harping on about this for the last 15 (give or take) years ago. So many valid points and arguments made by most here in the comments section and yet no change on the horizon or anywhere in the foreseeable future. Just more of the same descent, more accelerated now mind you, but nothing to indicate that we are going to be going anywhere but down. For those who keep beating the “it will get better” drum please, please, please show us how, backed with REAL figures and examples that are not a flash in the pan? If African history is anything to go by then what next? How about some vote rigging coming to a theatre near you

Elections coming in a couple of months — a vote for the ANC is a vote for more of the same: chaos!

So there aren’t enough people at Eskom to do this? The unions should be happy as this creates work

Don’t clean up or solve a problem for days on end ….. huh?? Why not?? Peolple are being paid to do this job! Why are they not doing it?? It is called deliberate sabotage by Eskom personnel aimed at Nersa hearings !!
Listening to Eskom at the hearings and seeing past recent events together with this ! It all adds up to Eskom wanting to hold the country at ransom!! All of this proudly brought to you by the anc (another new corruption) .
Totally unacceptable. This party should go now!

….back to economics / JSE stock market. With Eskom as it is, WHERE will future SA growth come from?
Equity analysts/asset managers seem to be optimistic that 2019 could usher in (statistically) a possible good 2019 JSE stock rebound (as many SA stock are cheap in valuations.)

Or priced fairly at present (with little scope of any future rebound) to reflect a zero growth and declining economy?

Good one, Michael from K. South Africa has one of the highest solar irradiations in the world. Plus we have a long coastline, ensuring a plentiful wind supply. The cost of energy produced by renewables IS NOW BELOW THAT OF ENERGY PRODUCED BY COAL, MR IRWIN JIM, NOT ABOVE! Fact! We have Ingula and Drakensberg pumping stations that can help supply energy at night. Plus Concentrated Solar Power plants can produce power for about 4 hours after sundown. Battery technology is still expensive but becoming cheaper by the year, and will be more so when Elon Musk’s USA factory comes on stream. So while we currently still need a bit of Eskom to supply so-called base-load power, the way forward is undoubtedly renewables. (Nuclear is a dead duck: massive costs, proven historic deadline and cost overruns, and then we still have to dispose of toxic waste at the end.) You vociferous trade unions, trying to maintain your lifestyle through workers’ dues: get your Eskom workers trained on installing renewables NOW. Eskom is a dinosaur. Suck it up, and wake up and smell the coffee.

Anyone who votes ANC this year must be completely out of their mind.
Excellent article – thanks for telling us what’s REALLY going on. And now it’s about another hour before one can carry on working when the power comes on and the WiFi is going again….

With their track record as known, there are only a few reasons to vote ANC.
1. you are uninformed
2. you are stupid
3. you are crazy
4. you are connected and can loot.

If you vote ANC, which one of those are you.

Or, you are one of the 4 to 6 unemployed who relies on a family member employed by Eskom sharing out his earnings with you.
All SOE’s see their primary role not as providing the service to the public that is their raison d’étre, but to “create jobs”, i.e., act as another channel for welfare disbursement to their presumed voters.
This is why the ANC is determined not to cut back on payrolls before an election – it’s not just one voter per job cut that they will lose, but half a dozen dependents who will also get lured away by Julius’s siren song.

Drowning in ANC-inspired arrogance and incompetence.

Be careful giving credit to past brains. They did the steering on a course leading to millions insulted beyond imagination. Breeding hatred unlimited. Real brains did know the road ahead by only knowing history of mankind. Warnings did not help. Worst, more laws based on color of skin emerged like doom clockwork. Today this hatred is a life and kicking on levels unknown in past colonial worlds. The result of crossing law lines, marking stupidity, not wisdom.

Many people are out of their mind so they will vote ANC.

SA’s new slogan: “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust”

Things that immediately came up when I read about this eskom fiasco

· First middle & last name of the eskom workforce is useless, useless, useless

· Eskom is overstaffed by a minimum of 27000 people but produce less electricity than 10 years ago – simply does not make any sense or is this the anc’s way of saying that they have created jobs (actually jobs for pals) like in the rest of all SOE’s?????

· Won’t be surprised if sabotage is deliberately taking place by eskom’s employees when not happy.

· CBZ can learn something out of their experience with Eskom – a continuing good deed towards a client like eskom, becomes a right for an eskom like organisation – you did it last month for us, why not this month too? – we now see the good deed as a perk that we are entitled to, even without paying your monthly account.

· Irwin Jim does not have a clue how income is actually generated – union money is much easier, every person belonging to the union is monthly contributing towards his salary (hopefully he is telling every contributing member this fact loud and clear). Unions with its limited or non existing long term view brought england’s economy to its knees – keep in mind South Africa’s economy is small fry in comparison with britain or the usa

· Even if eskom is split into 3 or for that matter 10 different units it still does not eliminate eskom’s current liability of R400 billion or does the anc have the Government Employees Pension Fund in mind to help out here????? and then lets try again – please give a clear indication on this one;

· Provide me with just one genuine BEE success story and I will be as happy as a pig in the mud

The question that arises is, why do Eskom need contractors when they have 47,000 employees and in fact most of the ash handing is automated?
Another BS story to warrant the price of electricity?

End of comments.




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