Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Jinxed Morupule B closes down following devastating inferno

The controversial Morupule B plant had to be closed down this week following an inferno that gutted some of the plant’s major components. The fire is reported to have damaged the plant’s cables and the refractory which protects the power plant’s air duct burner melted down. The cause of the fire which led to the closure of the plant has been attributed to negligence by operators who failed to control temperatures resulting in the burner overheating.

STEAG Energy Services, a German company recently took over the maintenance and operation services of Morupule B Power Station from China National Electric Equipment Corporation (CNEEC). Insiders at the plant say fire fighters were this week struggling battling an inferno that lasted three hours after a blaze erupted from the burner in the refractory at unit one. While no injuries were reported and technicians are still reviewing the extent of the damage to the station, insiders estimate that the fire caused millions of Pula in damage as it burnt cables above the burner and also resulted in the refractory melting. Information passed to the Sunday Standard indicates that the refractory melted down after the operators failed to control the air duct burner. The required temperature for the air duct burner should not be more than 1000 degrees. However, apparently no one from the operators noticed that the temperature was above 1200 degrees.

“They should have checked the temperature which resulted in the air duct burner being overheated. That temperature was left to be 1200 degrees for a long time by the operators of the plant,” said an insider. He said the air duct burner is protected by the refractory and after the air duct burner was over heated the refractory melted down. It is understood that units two and three are not in operation as they are undergoing repair. Sunday Standard has also learnt that despite the fact that BPC and CNEEC have not concluded negotiations on the repair plan; the later has gone ahead with repair of the two units. Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) spokesperson Spencer Moreri confirmed that currently there is no power supply coming from Morupule B Power plant as all the units were shutdown. “The two units that we have been relying on suffered technical challenges.

Unit four tripped as a result of excessive heat in the air duct expansion joint on the 28th January. It was then decided that for sustainability of the units the same remedial works to address the related components of the air duct expansion joint be carried out in unit 1 on the 30th January,” he said. Moreri said unit one is expected back in service on 16 February while unit 4 is expected on 12t February. “The other units (three and four) timelines have not been firmed, however the entire plant is expected to return to commercial operation by the end of 2014 barring the unforeseen,” said Moreri.

Moreri said they had been operating the plant with all 3 units for some time. “With the remedial works we are undertaking under the supervision of STEAG we are confident that the plant will operate at full capacity,” he said. Asked to confirm reports that since STEAG took over the maintenance and operations of Morupule B, the units ‘tripped’ two or three times a day, Moreri defended the German company saying “The Units are being operated within design parameters and technical challenges experienced during the takeover have been anticipated as they have to familiarise themselves with the power plant.”

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Sunday Standard August 2 – 8

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of August 2 - 8, 2020.