On August 8th, an explosion took place in South Africa’s brand-new and largest coal-fired power plant.
It was forced to stop operation just a week after it initially began operating.
The state-owned power utility Eskom announced that an explosion occurred at the Medupi Power Station late in the evening for reasons that are still unknown.
Although there were reportedly no injuries, a total of seven employees had to be treated for shock.
“No injuries have been reported, and all employees and contractors have been accounted for. Emergency services attended to seven colleagues requiring treatment for shock,” Eskom said.
“Eskom will continue to provide support to the employees who might have been affected by the incident through its Employee Assistance Programme,” it said.
“Unit 4 was on a short-term outage (since August 6) when the incident occurred, and all work on the unit was suspended with immediate effect. This included the suspension of all permits to work on the plant until further notice.”
The power plant came online just one week ago, some 14 years after construction began, the delay due to multiple cost and deadline overruns.
“This explosion has resulted in extensive damage to the generator,” Eskom said.
“The incident occurred during the activity to displace hydrogen with carbon dioxide and air respectively, for the purposes of finding an external leak. Fortunately, no injuries were sustained by personnel who were on site during the unfortunate incidents.”
Eskom said that following a preliminary investigation, it appeared that while the activity was being performed, air was introduced into the generator when hydrogen was still present.
The power utility said the hydrogen was still present in sufficient quantities to create an explosive mixture, which ignited and resulted in the explosion.
“It also appears that there was a deviation from the procedure for carrying out this activity,” Eskom said.
“As such, Eskom has undertaken to place those employees who were responsible to manage and execute this work under precautionary suspension pending the conclusion of the major event investigation.”
Eskom said investigations were under way into the cause of the incident and to what extent it would affect the national electricity grid.
Medupi, which can generate up to 4,764 megawatts of electricity, is one of the world’s largest coal-fired power plants and cost 122 billion rand ($8.3 billion).
The plant is expected to be in service for 50 years.
Despite global efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and invest in renewable energy sources, coal-rich South Africa continues to rely on the fossil fuel, which supplies 75% of the country’s energy supply.
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