Eskom Challenged on Water-Energy Tightrope

31 Oct 2013
Available with corporate subscription

On 18 September 2013, South African state utility Eskom reaffirmed delays to the construction of the 4.8 GW Medupi coal power station located in the Waterberg district of Limpopo province, moving its deadline from December 2013 to second half of 2014 for commissioning the first turbine units. The plant already missed several key milestones in 2011-2012 due to labor unrest, faulty welding, and systems defects for controls and instrumentation and is facing additional water supply constraints from the outset.

Eskom received a US$3.75 billion loan from the World Bank in April 2010, contingent on its inclusion of Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD) to comply with the lender´s environmental standards. Medupi is projected to consume nearly 25 million m3 of water annually when fully on-line with FGD. Eskom has sought to postpone FGD installation due to water shortages.

Bluefield Takeaways

  • Medupi FGD water bottleneck characterizes South Africa´s water-coal power conflict.
  • Eskom transitions to more water-efficient coal power, but consumption continues to climb.
  • EPC and water sourcing difficulties point to fewer mega-projects going forward.