AltX-listed independent power producer the Ispa Group on Friday said it intends to bring its 1 600MW combined cycle gas turbine power plant in Coega on stream as fast as possible “to meet the desperate need for power in South Africa”.
The United Kingdom-based company — which has operations at Newcastle and Merebank in KwaZulu-Natal, and in Swaziland — is expected to spend more than R2-billion on the plant, with the first phase of 500MW costing about R1-billion.
This project will initially operate in open cycle at 500MW using liquid fuels, allowing the power station to run pending the conversion to combined cycle gas turbine operation once the planned liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminal is completed at Coega around 2009/10.
The plant’s conversion to the combined cycle gas turbine operation will cost a further R1-billion.
Ispa said in a statement that the four gas turbines acquired earlier in the year, at a cost of about R277-million, are currently being refurbished and upgraded from an aggregate generating capacity of about 500MW to 521MW.
The cost of the upgrade is approximately $14-million and all four upgraded turbines are expected to be ready for delivery to Port Elizabeth in April next year for installation thereafter.
“When installed at Coega, the upgraded turbines will have the same performance and life expectancy as a new turbine off the assembly line,” said Ispa.
However, it said the benefits of using “grey market” turbines are cost saving and a short lead time to delivery.
“There is currently an average delay of between 18 months and two years between ordering new turbines and their delivery from the factory as a result of high global demand for new power-generation equipment,” Ispa said.
The first phase of the Coega project will be commissioned before the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
“This is an important benefit, not only for Ispa but also for South Africa, as it faces continuing shortages of power-generation capacity and long lead times to the commissioning of new coal-fired power plants,” the company said.
The 15-month construction timetable for a combined cycle gas turbine plant is less than half the time it takes to build a modern coal-fired plant.
While state-owned power utility Eskom currently generates about 95% of South Africa’s electricity, the government has decided to allocate 30% of all new generation capacity to independent power producers (IPPs).
By limiting Eskom to 70% of new generation capacity and by making the power utility the sole buyer of power from IPPs, the government hopes to enable private investment in the sector while providing a measure of certainty to investors looking to enter South Africa’s energy market. — I-Net Bridge