Emergency diesel imports may finally have reached Eskom

Business Insider SA
Power lines feed electricity to the national grid
Power lines feed electricity to the national grid from Koeberg Nuclear Power Station. (Photo by: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)
  • Eskom has finally landed emergency diesel stocks, which could help to put a stop to load shedding. 
  • One diesel import may have been stuck in limbo for a number of days, according to one insider report.
  • PetroSA has also started supplying Eskom on Thursday, Business Insider SA has learned.

Eskom has finally managed to get emergency diesel stocks to help ease South Africa's current energy crisis.

Eskom has been running out of diesel, which is used to fuel open-cycle gas turbines (OCGTs)

On Sunday, for the first time in its history, 40% of Eskom's capacity was offline after seven Eskom generators tripped at the same time. The utility also blamed a lack of diesel for its woes.

At the end of last year, Treasury gave the go-ahead for the “emergency procurement” of diesel for OCGTs. Government allowed Eskom to spend an extra R1 billion on diesel, which was not budgeted.

Using these turbines is among the most expensive ways to generate electricity, and is usually relied on as a last resort. Some of the turbines are managed by private companies.

According to unconfirmed reports, an emergency diesel shipment destined for the turbines landed in a South African harbour days ago. 

Electrical engineer and energy analyst Chris Yelland told Business Insider South Africa that according to an Eskom insider, the diesel couldn't be offloaded as PetroSA had apparently leased its bunker facilities to a private trader - and there was no space to offload the diesel.

Another shipment has apparently arrived today. 

PetroSA has not yet responded to Business Insider's request for comment.

Business Insider South Africa also confirmed with another insider that PetroSA has started supplying Eskom from its own stock on Thursday. This follows an announcement of negotiations between the two organisations

Yelland says Eskom has been running on the brink of its diesel reserves for some time now. The diesel shipments should help to ease load shedding. 

“We could go for a week without load shedding, we just don’t know. The point is South Africans should not get complacent just because they have not been load shed for a couple of weeks. I expect the power will go on and off erratically for a while longer as Eskom begins to sort out the technical issues of the generators that went off,” Yelland said.

Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan has recruited a task team of three senior coal power station engineers from Italy along with experienced SA engineers, to assess independently why there have been frequent breakdowns. 

“At this stage there is a credibility issue. No matter what Eskom says is going on, the public need some form of independent assessment,“ said Yelland.

Government has said that the poor design of the two new power stations, Kusile and Medupi, has contributed to their sub-par generation.

The exact state of disrepair has not been revealed to the public. But according to insider reports, some of the older turbines have been damaged by poor quality coal supplied from mines then owned by the Gupta family and a lack of maintenance.

READ MORE: It could take five years for Eskom’s power stations to be fully up and running again – here’s why

Eskom employees tell Yelland that the mood inside the utility is bleak.

“I am told there is a huge loss of moral and productivity on the floor. Staff inside are demoralised and there is a lot of apathy as employees struggle with the uncertainty of the future of the power utility.”  

For more go to Business Insider South Africa.

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