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At Work: Rural Power Plant

Looking out over the construction site for the Kusile power station, about 100 kilometres northeast of Johannesburg, South Africa, Gerrit Griessel sees a lot of work to be done. “Our part of the project is roughly in the region of 1.7 billion Rand [$130 million USD]”, explains Greissel, “we are the main building contractor on site. It’s a very, very, challenging project with lots of constraints.”

The Kusile plant is currently one of the largest infrastructure projects under construction in the world. On a worksite covering over 3,300 acres, the project employs over 17,000 workers and is the single largest stimulus to South Africa’s national economy. Scheduled for completion in 2018, the power station will provide will provide just under 4,800 MW of power, representing 12% of the country’s future generating capacity. Funding for the project comes from Eskom, South Africa's state-owned utility company that produces almost half of the electricity for all of Africa.

 

Kusile will be fourth largest coal-fired power plant globally, requiring dozens of new coal mines to support the plant. To meet environmental standards, Kusile will feature a highly sought-after technology to remove Sulphur from exhaust gases. From Eskom:

“The power station will be the first in South Africa to install flue-gas desulphurisation (FGD) – a state-of-the-art technology used to remove oxides of sulphur, such as sulphur dioxide, from exhaust flue gases in power plants that burn coal or oil. This technology is fitted as an atmospheric emission abatement technology, in line with current international practice, to ensure compliance with air-quality standards, especially since the power station is located in a priority air shed area.”

Kusile’s boilers and chimneys will stretch an impressive 115 and 220 metres, respectively, but they stand as only one element of the construction project. According to Eskom, the Kusile project “will include a power station precinct, power station buildings, administrative buildings (control buildings and buildings for medical and security purposes), roads and a high-voltage yard. The associated infrastructure will include a coal stockyard, coal and ash conveyors, water-supply pipelines, temporary electricity supply during construction, water and wastewater treatment facilities, ash disposal systems, a railway line, limestone offloading facilities, access roads (including haul roads) and dams for water storage, as well as a railway siding and/or a Railway line for the transportation of the limestone supply”. For Greissel, this means there are a lot factors to consider.

“Our project consists of about 86 buildings, built all over the power station”, says Greissel, the project manager for Stefanutti Stocks, a Basil Read joint venture on the Kusile power station project. Some elements of the project are more frustrating than others. “The challenge that we faced with getting the mortar and plaster to the buildings on time, and having fresh material available for the construction was a huge constraint. The conventional method of batching it in normal fashion did not suit the project”, he says. The rural setting of the job site made the logistics of obtaining material a major headache, especially fresh, quality concrete. With the project running significantly behind schedule, Greissel and his team looked for a better solution. He explains: “we looked at a couple of options and eventually we settled on the ProAll Reimer truck. It has proved to be a huge success. We managed to bring down the quality issues we had on getting the material on site.” Beyond increased quality and reliability, the Reimer Mixer also helped the crews’ efficiency. Work was able to begin a full two hours earlier, and standing time was significantly reduced. “We improved productivity with our labour force about 75%, with them not standing without material on site”, estimates Greissel. With such a massive, complex project to oversee, Greissel is glad he can cross concrete supply off his list of worries: “probably the biggest advantage of having the Reimer truck is having the right product at the right time in exactly the right quantity“.

Photo credits: one, two, four, five