A coal silo collapse on Saturday 1 November at Majuba power station crippled the newest commercially operated plant in the SA grid.
At about 12:30, operating staff reported a visible crack on silo 20. Workers in the area immediately evacuated.
No injuries were reported. The area was secured and protected. Station output reduced from 3 600 MW to 1800 MW. It has since settled at 600 MW.
At 13:12 Silo 20 collapsed, said Eskom chief executive, Tshediso Matona on Monday 3 November.
Emergency management response
Eskom had triggered its Emergency Command Centre.”Our first priority was to protect the power grid and look at the impact of power supply to the country,” said Matona.
“Arrangements were made for permits to transport mobile coal feeders to the site to enable a manual feed to five of the six units, enabling Majuba power station to operate at a minimum of half-load.
“It appears that this coal silo collapse is an isolated incident specific to the coal infrastructure at Majuba. The internal investigation had started. The situation is being constantly monitored”, said Matona.
Recent coal silo damage was repaired
Three 10 000-ton coal storage silos at Majuba power station were constructed in 1994. They are situated where the mechanised feed is split to feed the generators.
“The latest civil visual inspection was conducted in September last year, by an external specialist, in line with best practice.
“The concrete structure was found to be in good condition. Some moderate cases of external physical damage that was reported, have since been repaired. The risk classification of the coal silo damage was low.”
Majuba Power Station in Mpumalanga province, has an installed capacity of 4110 MW. The station is 13 years old and became fully operational in 2001 when the last of its six units came on line.
Eskom has informed all key stakeholders, including the national disaster management centre to minimise the impact for matriculants and communities.
Since the power system is tight, this unplanned coal silo collapse and switch to manual feed, exacerbated the situation and Eskom warned that load shedding may continue for a week.
Eskom apologised to electricity consumers and called on users to switch off unnecessary lights, geysers on off times, pool pumps, and air-conditioners.
Load shedding schedules are available on Eskom website, and municipal customers should contact their municipalities for details.
How to save electricity at work
Renewable independent power producers peak at over 900 MW (about 1 274 MW installed). Renewables will increasingly offset some of the OCGT usage, said Matona.
Wind and solar power is unavailable during the evening peak when demand is high. The power system remains vulnerable all day up to 10pm. Eskom advises these measures at work;
Switch off air-conditioning or use efficiently, set air-conditioning at 23 degrees.
Switch off geysers and pool pumps all day until 10pm.
Switch off non-essential lighting.
Respond to Power Alert messages by switching off all appliances that are not being used.
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