Eskom says Kusile Unit 3 has achieved commercial operation. Photo: Getty Images

  • Kusile Unit 3 this week achieved commercial operation, Eskom announced on Wednesday.
  • Kusile has suffered cost overruns and delays since it was commissioned in the early 2000s.
  • The station is the first in the continent to use wet flue gas desulphurisation technology, which is useful for removing sulphur oxides emitted through the burning of coal or oil.

Half of the Kusile build project in Mpumalanga has been completed, as Unit 3 of the coal-fired power station achieved commercial operation this week.

Eskom in a statement on Wednesday, indicated that there are now three units at the station which have achieved commercial status and collectively generate a maximum of 2 400 MW of power.

Kusile was commissioned along with Medupi in the early 2000s and was meant to be fully operational by 2015. The construction has suffered delays and cost overruns, which energy experts say have contributed to Eskom’s debt burden of over R480 billion.

According to Eskom, Unit 3 was first synchronised to the national grid in April 2019 and had undergone rigorous testing and optimisation over the past two years.

“Bringing this unit to commercial operation is a major milestone for Eskom and the employees involved in the project, who are working hard to ensure Eskom fulfils its promise of bringing stability to the power system,” said Bheki Nxumalo, Eskom’s group executive for capital projects.

“The construction, testing and optimisation activities on the remaining three units, some of which are currently providing intermittent power to support the grid, are progressing well,” the statement read.

Kusile is the first power station in the country and the African continent to use wet flue gas desulphurisation technology. The technology removes oxides of sulphur, like sulphur dioxide, emitted in exhaust flue gas through the burning of coal or oil. The use of the technology is in line with international practice and ensures compliance with air quality standards.

Eskom and Sasol are the country’s two biggest polluters – responsible for carbon emissions.

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy, in an interview with Bloomberg, said that Eskom and Sasol have to comply with minimum air-quality standards, even if it may be expensive.

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