- Bloomberg reports that Eskom has asked South Africa’s environmental affairs department to allow it to bypass the flue-gas desulphurisation (FGD) unit, which removes the toxic gas (known by its chemical symbol SO2) from emissions at three of the six units at the Kusile.
- South Africa is in a spiralling energy crisis, rotational load shedding is getting worst and the cost to the economy is a massive R950 million a day.
- Eskom understandably wants to return the units to service in the quickest time possible.
On the 23rd of October 2022, a section of the Kusile Unit 1 flue gas duct (the equivalent of a chimney in a household) exiting the sulphur dioxide absorber failed on the horizontal rubber expansion joint as well as the compensator (a bend to direct flue gas up the chimney and allow for thermal expansion of the chimney). The damage happened whilst the unit was on forced shutdown for Flue Gas De-sulphuration recirculating pump repairs.
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As a result of the failure to act on its SO2 emissions over many decades, Eskom has become the largest power sector emitter of SO2 in the world. By temporarily bypassing the pollution abatement unit, Eskom will increase emissions of SO2 eightfold, to 80 000 tonnes at Kusile alone, said Lauri Myllivirta, lead analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.
But by bypassing the duct, Eskom could return the units to operation a year earlier than planned. That would be 2400MW of much needed generation capacity.
In March 2022, a South Africa court ruled that clean air is a constitutional right. It would be interesting to see how South Africa’s environment minister, Barbera Creecy, responds to Eskom’s request.
Author: Bryan Groenendaal