Fuel Thieves Siphon Off Millions from Eskom’s Kriel Power Station

 

  • An ageing Eskom power station in Mpumalanga is the hub of one sophisticated fuel theft operation siphoning off millions of rands worth.
  • As prices keep rising, cross-border fuel smuggling is increasingly attractive.
  • Implicated in the scam are corrupt officials within Eskom, the trucking companies and the local police.

A sophisticated crime syndicate – in cahoots with Eskom officials, police and trucking companies – is stealing millions of rands worth of fuel by exploiting a design flaw at the Kriel Power Station in Mpumalanga. And it all has to do with a weigh bridge on the wrong side of a gate.

In March amaBhungane revealed how armed gangs were stealing fuel from buried pipelines owned by Transnet.

After the story was published, we received tipoffs that led us to another form of fuel theft, at Kriel Power Station, which have evaded detection for many years.

In coal-fired power stations fuel-oil is used at start-up or during unstable furnace conditions to ignite or stabilise the coal flame. At Kriel the fuel-oil is stored in four storage tanks with a combined capacity of 1 350 tons.

But as fuel prices have soared, fuel theft and cross-border fuel smuggling is increasingly attractive, placing even more pressure on Eskom when the utility is already struggling with crippling electricity blackouts.

Kriel: a hub of fuel theft

The Kriel Power Station, located between the towns of Ogies and Kriel some 100km east of Johannesburg, was commissioned in 1979. At the time it was the largest coal-powered station in the southern hemisphere, capable of generating three gigawatts of power. But it has a fatal design flaw.

As one truck driver put it: “Unlike other power stations the weigh bridge is outside not inside the Eskom yard. This gives a chance for trucks to drive to other locations to offload and then come back to weigh.”

The driver, who did not want to be identified, also said security was very lax at the station “because as long as you have documentation they don’t even check inside the truck … security lets you pass.

Read more on this exclusive story from the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism HERE

 

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