Morupule A is producing 45 megawatts, as the 30-year-old power station returns to operation on a trial basis after six years of refurbishment, BusinessWeek has learnt.
Morupule A, with a nameplate capacity of 132MW, was for decades the country’s sole power station, until it was mothballed in 2012 after an adverse cost-benefit analysis. At that time, the power station’s plant availability had dropped to below 30%, from 84% in 2008. The refurbishment, costing approximately P2 billion, has been finalised and testing of each of the four units is currently underway, Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) chief executive officer, Stefan Schwarzfischer said.
“Right now we are getting 45MW from the plant but this goes up and down because it is on a trial test and we ramp the systems up and down, meaning there’s no constant flow,” the CEO said. “Two units will be up and running on a commercial basis by the end of this month and the other two should follow two weeks after.
“We are making great progress.” Morupule A was the subject of protracted tendering disputes, which on several occasions resulted in the then Energy Minister addressing Parliament to clear the air. Schwarzfischer said while the project had been delayed, the emphasis had been on avoiding the errors made with quality on Morupule B, the adjacent bigger power plant dogged by faults since 2012.
“We didn’t want to do the same mistake done with Morupule B, where there were too many quality issues. “There’s no compromise to quality. Quality and safety come
first and we wanted to make sure this plant is running up to scratch,” he said. The return of Morupule A is timely, as BPC starts the P1.2 billion major remediation works on the 600MW Morupule B power station.
Under the works, each of Morupule B’s four units will be taken down for a year for remediation, a situation that requires all other available generation in the country to be in good nick. “From January 1, 2019, we will be taking one unit out of service at Morupule B, revamping it completely for 12 months with a trial of three months after, then taking out the next,” said Schwarzfischer.
“We need to have risk mechanisms in place to cater for the loss of that one unit. Ideally, we would like to produce our power with Morupule B with Morupule A compensating for the loss of that unit. If anything fails, we should have our diesel generators and in the event of everything failing, we should have access to imports.
“While we remediate Morupule B, we are also trying to spin a net so that whatever happens we are secure, but not exposed to too much costs.” The country’s peak electricity demand is presently 575MW met through Morupule B and A, while 160MW of emergency diesel generation from units at Orapa and Matshelagabedi is also on standby.