ZPC seeks $82m to maintain Hwange station

By | June 12, 2017

Source: ZPC seeks $82m to maintain Hwange station | The Herald June 12, 2017

Golden Sibanda Senior Business Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Power Company, which is currently in the process of overhauling generators at Hwange Power Station to improve output, says it requires $82 million annually to maintain the power plant. This comes as ZPC indicated it was working towards a life extension programme for Hwange Power Station, a strategic peaking plant, which will improve output. The project would add 25 to 30 years to the power plant and bring the station to its design capacity.

Hwange’s next major refurbishment will be a life extension project, which the power utility said will require approximately $500 million. A $42 million refurbishment deal, in exchange for power, was undertaken in 2014 by Namibia’s power utility, Nampower.

The power station has, until recently, been dogged by frequent break downs due to maintenance issues, which caused power supply interruptions for a country already battling acute shortages.

Zimbabwe’s biggest power plant, by design capacity, is made up of six generating units, and each requiring an overhaul every five to maintain its efficiency. The plant, which was first constructed in 1973, is currently generating about 500 megawatts against its installed capacity of 920MW due to factors relating to technical issues and its advanced age.

Generally, the power station’s technical faults have over the years been attributed to poor maintenance and lack of adequate spares, but ZPC argues the challenges are related to the funding it needs for repairs.

“Hwange Power Station is made up of 6 (generating) units, and each unit requires overhaul (refurbishment) after every 5 years in order to maintain its efficiency. What this means is that there is need to overhaul a single unit each year and this is very costly,” ZPC said.

Yet the power plant, which says its operations are capital intensive, had its request for a 49 percent increase in the tariff, shot down by the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority on grounds that doing so would hurt industry while Government is also working on new capacity. As such, the power utility said, financial constraints have contributed to challenges in maintaining the Hwange plant, resulting in frequent break downs. Considering its age and limited capacity, Government signed a $1,2 billion deal in 2014 for a 600MW extension.

“We have, however, managed to resolve most of the issues (at Hwange) through financial assistance from the Government of Zimbabwe, and the plant is performing better than it did years ago,” ZPC said.

According ZPC, the capacity expansion on Hwange Power Station, will relieve pressure on the old plant and give time for outages to be fixed. ZPC is also expanding 750MW Kariba South hydro plant by 300MW.

ZPC said sustainability and reliability of a thermal plant are mostly determined by age of the plant. After 30 years, reliability and sustainability of maintaining the power plant decreases due to the age.

Maintenance and refurbishment was therefore more sustainable and reliable when the plant was younger unlike now when it has aged. ZPC said this was the reason it had embarked on major overhauls of generators at the power station. Unit 5 overhaul was completed in 2014, unit 4 was done last year with ZPC currently working on Unit 6.

Hwange’s units 1, 2 and 4 are generating 100MW each while Unit 5 is producing 165MW. Unit 3 is generating 95MW. ZPC said the units are operating well, but experience various challenges as a due to aged plant.

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