“Proactive load shedding is necessary to protect and ensure system integrity.”
That was the message from Eskom Chief Operating Officer Jan Oberholzer when he moved South Africa to: Phase 4 on Wednesday morning, as it races to replenish its reserve supply.
Eskom burns diesel faster than it can refuel
Eskom has burned out its emergency generating reserves at a much faster rate than originally planned.
The parastatal currently consumes nine million gallons of diesel per day — a rate it burns faster than it can refuel.
Oberholzer said implementing phase 4 is necessary if we want to avoid going to phase 6 power outages.
Every day, at least 100 tankers with about four million liters of diesel are transported to the Ankerlig station in Cape Town, while Gourikwa Power Station gets its oil and fuel fed directly to the site.
Oberholzer warned that if Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGT) reserves are depleted, “three more phases of load shedding would be needed, and if dam levels depleted, three more phases would be needed – bringing the total to phase 6. “
Eskom said that if the situation became extremely dire, it would implement a post-phase 8 plan, which would work at the provincial level, with each province required to divest the volumes needed to avoid a blackout.
But we’re not there yet, and engineering teams are expected to put the broken units back into service on Sunday, the utility assured.
The logistical nightmare
Transporting large amounts of diesel to Ankerlig has been a challenge, and now Eskom is working to avoid completely depleting its diesel reserves and pumped water storage systems.
It hopes wet weather conditions won’t slow down tankers carrying millions of gallons of diesel, potentially exacerbating power generation problems.
As for wet coal, the head of Eskom’s generation, Philip Dukashe, said his plan to prepare for rain had helped Eskom mitigate the problem during the recent spell of rainy weather.
Oberholzer said that the Russian/Ukraine conflict was likely to lead to a reduction in diesel volumes in the near future, but could not say if and when South Africa would be affected.
Currently, one OCGT at full capacity consumes 14 liters 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 outages are 15,439 MW, while planned maintenance is 5,505 MW of capacity.