Eskom Powers On
State-owned entity Eskom is among the top global greenhouse gas emitters, and in a bid to reduce its emission rates, the power utility is exploring a number of technology solutions. It is investing some R300-billion to mitigate its environmental impact while improving power station performance, Sandile Siyaya, Eskom GM for primary energy, recently told delegates attending the virtual Coal Industry Day.
In line with the Presidential Climate Commission’s recommendations that South Africa adopt more ambitious emission reduction targets, the power producer is looking at options to meet these requirements.
Speaking on the topic “What is Eskom’s role in the Southern African coal market and how is this changing?”, Siyaya conceded that while the power producer was in the process of an “imminent transition” to cleaner fuel sources, it would remain a significant consumer of coal until the middle of the century.
Among the initiatives under way, the power utility was considering moving coal via rail or conveyor system where feasible and had identified Transnet as its designated rail solutions provider.
“The Eskom Coal Strategy underpins our efforts to have dedicated long-term contracts, with a preference for coal delivered on conveyor belts to ensure a predictable price path and security of coal supply.”
The company was also looking to renegotiate its coal quality requirements into the cost-plus agreements.
“Eskom will continue with the cost-plus mines contracts and the extension of the contracts to match the remaining useful life of the power stations. Focus will be on coal quality initiatives at specific sites; requiring assurance that coal quality paid at source is the same coal quality received at the stations,” said Siyaya.
Following the recent realisation that a substantial portion of its coal was being nicked, Eskom engaged the services of the relevant law enforcement agencies, including the South African Police Service, Hawks and others. “We are seeing that there is a significant amount of coal that is being stolen from the organisation. Thus far two arrests have been made in the last three months, with more to come.”
Aside from engaging with its suppliers to optimise its coal quality, other capital expenditure initiatives targeting environmental compliance include:
- X-ray screening technology aimed at improving coal quality – in this regard the power producer is partnering with mining houses and emerging coal miners.
- Exploring clean coal technologies – Eskom is working with the Council for Geoscience on the Majuba CCS project – a pilot project targeting carbon capture and sequestration.
- An inland coal terminal aimed at improving coal qualities through blending and homogenising to reduce variability and optimise total cost of coal.
The proposed introduction of an inland coal terminal would allow for emerging miners to contribute to the overall Eskom coal supply. The initiative is in the early stages and the company has yet to decide on where the coal terminal would be located.
Looking ahead, Siyaya said Eskom had developed the Just Energy Transition Strategy to prepare for the future and that the entity had prioritised Komati as its flagship site to implement its repowering and repurposing programme, which offers the entity opportunities in the green space.
The Komati power station has been operational since 1961 and its last unit is scheduled to shut down in 2022.