Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Plant accident delays handover of first unit at Morupule A

An accident in which a 40-kilovolt-amps transformer at the Morupule A power plant in Palapye burnt to ashes has badly affected the handover schedule.

Doosan Heavy Industries Construction, which is refurbishing Morupule A, was to hand over back the first unit to the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) this month. However, such plans were scuttled on June 15, 2016 when a transformer, whose value is estimated to be between P6 million and P8 million, burnt to ashes. The plant control room is supposed to be manned around the clock but our information is that such was not the case on the day in question. Had there been someone in the control room, he would have been able to able to pick up the warning from the instrument panel and acted accordingly.

Both parties (BPC and Doosan) have refused to take responsibility for this very costly accident and the dispute is to be resolved through arbitration in Mauritius at a yet undetermined date. Sources say that it will take no less than a year to get a new transformer because the manufacturers are supplying a global market and BPC will have to get on a long waiting list.

The accident, the stand-off between BPC and Doosan as well as the length of time it will take to get a new transformer will certainly affect project delivery. According to an August 3, 2015 letter that BPC’s Chief Executive Officer, Jacob Raleru, wrote to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Kgomotso Abi, “it should be feasible to secure the envisaged 90 MW generation capacity from three units by the fourth quarter of 2016 and a further 30 MW (making a total of 120 MW) by the fourth quarter of 2017.” The letter provided a detailed evaluation of the proposal made by the South Korean company. Our information is that the timeline was later revised with October 2016 being settled upon as the date for the handover of the first unit.

The June accident was not just about an expensive piece of equipment burning to ashes. More importantly, it is about national security issue because for as long Botswana remains insufficient in its ability to generate power, its energy security is imperiled. By itself, BPC is unable to meet national energy demand and a substantial amount of it is imported from South Africa’s Eskom. Morupule A is being demothballed as part of effort to close the supply gap.

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The Telegraph October 28

Digital edition of The Telegraph, October 28, 2020.