Shortage of diesel to power gas turbines means rolling blackouts continue

 A child reads a book using a head torch after electricity was shut off during a rolling blackout in Hout Bay, Cape Town. (Photo: Dwayne Senior / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

By Julia Evans


25 Sep 2022  2

Eskom has announced that Stage 3 rolling blackouts will continue until Thursday, 29 September, due to planned maintenance, units breaking and difficulty getting diesel to power its open-cycle gas turbines.

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On the 75th day of power cuts so far this year, Eskom announced that Stage 3 rolling blackouts would continue until Thursday, 29 September, with Stage 4 being implemented during evening peaks between 4pm and midnight.

Why are we living in never-ending darkness?

Despite its standard excuses of planned maintenance being carried out to some units (5,897MW) and other units unavailable due to breakdowns (a whopping 16,739MW), Eskom said it was struggling to get diesel from its supplier. This means it can’t operate two of its open cycle gas turbines — which means another 2,000MW of power off the grid.

Segomoco Scheppers, the group executive for transmission at Eskom, said at the signing ceremony on Thursday, 22 September, for three Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme projects that the then unavailable 21,000MW was “a painfully high number. If half of that was available, we would not be here.”

He added: “It is not a quick or easy thing [to resolve]. But it’s certainly receiving attention because if we were not having these high levels of breakdowns, we would not be having the load shedding today.”

On Friday, 23 September, Eskom said the Stage 5 and Stage 4 rolling blackouts planned for the weekend would be used to replenish the pumped storage dam levels that had been used extensively in the past week. 

Graph illustrating energy availability factor (EAF) for Eskom’s coal fleet. (Source: Eskom data | graph: Clyde Mallinson)

The state-owned power utility said constraints from its diesel suppliers had affected the availability of bulk diesel to the Ankerlig and Gourikwa open cycle gas turbines, which have a combined capacity of 2,000MW.

On Sunday, Eskom said it was still experiencing “constraints” from its diesel supplier.

“While we expect diesel deliveries from Tuesday onwards, should this uncertainty of supply persist, higher stages of load shedding may be required,” said Eskom in a statement.

“While some generation units are anticipated to return to service, it is necessary to continue the load shedding to conserve emergency generation reserves,” Eskom said. DM


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