Be grateful for stage 4 load shedding – it could have been stage 6

Be grateful for stage 4 load shedding – it could have been stage 6

“Proactive load shedding is necessary to protect and ensure the integrity of the system.”

That was the message from Eskom Chief Operating Officer Jan Oberholzer upon moving South Africa to Stage 4 on Wednesday morning, as it races to replenish its reserve supply.

Eskom burning diesel faster than it can refuel

Eskom has been burning through its emergency generation reserves at a far more rapid pace than it had originally planned for.

The parastatal is currently using nine million litres of diesel per day – a rate it is burning through faster than it can refuel.

Oberholzer said implementing Stage 4 is necessary if we want to avoid moving to stage 6 power cuts.

At least 100 tankers carrying some four million litres of diesel is being transported to the Ankerlig station in Cape Town daily, while Gourikwa Power Station gets its oil and fuel fed directly to the site.

Oberholzer warned that if the Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGT) reserves are depleted, “that would necessitate a further three stages of load shedding, and if the dam levels get depleted that would require another three stages – bringing the total to stage 6.”

Eskom said should the situation become extremely dire, it would implement a post-stage 8 plan, which would operate on a provincial level, in which each province would have to shed the volumes necessary to avoid a blackout.

But we are not yet there, and technical teams are expected to return broken down units back to service by Sunday, the utility assured.

The logistical nightmare

Transporting the large volumes of diesel to Ankerlig has been challenging, and now Eskom is working to avoid completely depleting its diesel reserves and pump water storage systems.

It hopes wet weather conditions won’t delay tankers carrying millions of litres of diesel, further potentially exacerbating the power generation problems.

As for wet coal, Eskom’s head of generation Philip Dukashe said its rain-readiness plan had helped Eskom mitigate the problem during the recent bout of rainy weather.

Oberholzer said the Russian/Ukraine conflict would probably result in a reduction of diesel volumes in the near future, but couldn’t say if and when South Africa would be hit.

Currently, one OCGT running at fully capacity uses 14 litres of diesel per second, costing Eskom R4 700 per MW, and R700 000 per unit per hour.

But even with all the money and diesel in the world, Eskom CEO Calib Cassim said the OCGT turbines can only contribute 2 000 MW to the grid.

As it stands, total breakdowns amount to 15 439MW, while planned maintenance is 5 505MW of capacity.

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