Total blackout at Morupule B

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All four units at the 600MW Morupule B Power plant have broken down. This has placed the country in a precarious position of relying on imports for 100 percent of its electricity needs.

 Two units broke down in September while the other two failed early this month. Constructed by Chinese company CNEEC, the plant was supposed to be fully operational by October 2012 but has been plagued by regular boiler failures in the past two years leading to widespread power cuts. 

Addressing the media in Gaborone yesterday Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources Kitso Mokaila revealed the risky position that the country had been exposed to but was hopeful load shedding would be minimised due to available excess power currently available for import in the region.

“ We have to admit that it’s a risky position. But we have to remain calm because in the summer season we always have excess power available in the regional pool.  We can only face serious difficulties if other countries in the Southern African power pool experience shortages because then they would have to reduce the amount they export to us,” he said.

With remedial works underway at the power plant, Mokaila said the CNEEC President is expected in Botswana on Friday for crunch talks with government.

CNEEC workers are still working on the plant under the two year defect notification period, which, under the Engineering, Procurement and Construction contract, expires in June 2016.

With demand peaking at around 500 MW, South Africa’s Eskom with which Botswana has a contract for supply of up to 300MW is predominantly meeting the country’s power demand.

According to BPC CEO, Jacob Raleru, three of the 150MW  units have broken down due to boiler tube leaks while the last one experienced problems with the generator excitation system.

“Unit 1, 2 and 4 experienced boiler leak and two engineers from China have flown in and are currently working to rectify the problem. We hope to have these three units back on stream between 20 and 23 October. However we still don’t have an expected date of return for Unit 3, which broke down last week after a generator failure,” he said.

Responding MmegiBusiness enquiries last week, Eskom officials confirmed that they had increased supplies to Botswana.

“Botswana has indeed asked for an increase of its electricity imports from South Africa following the breakdown of the Morupule power station.

“Eskom currently exports 100MW to Botswana as part of the supply agreement. The exports can go up to 300MW -- meaning the 200MW is non-firm, and is dependent on the surplus generating capacity that Eskom has,” said Eskom spokesperson, Khulu Phasiwe.

In the event of non availability of surplus supply from the regional pool, BPC is supplementing supplies from the diesel powered Orapa and Matshelagabedi plants, which can produce upto 160 MW.

Government plans to pump another P2.05 billion into the financially saddled BPC this year. The planned P2.05 billion bailout to the BPC for its operations and maintenance this year, adds onto P1.49 billion the corporation received via a presidential directive last year to cover Eskom imports, obligations of the Morupule B loan, Morupule Coal Mine bill and operation and maintenance for the Morupule B project.

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