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BPC’s Unending Troubles at Morupule B

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…10 YEARS LATER Power station nowhere close to completion

Botswana Power Corporation (BPC)’s multi-billion Pula flagship power project, the Morupule B, is nowhere close to completion despite that it was supposed to have been completed seven years ago. With the outbreak of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the Chinese contractors are unable to effectively mobilize their logistics so much that the Minister of Minerals, Green Technology and Energy Resources Lefoko Moagi is clueless as to when will Morupule B be fully operational, Staff Writer KEABETSWE NEWEL reports.

The national electricity demand stands at 739 Megawatts, according to Minister Moagi. Domestic production is only 159MW. Morupule A is fully operational, producing 114MW. Morupule B which is supposed to have an output of 600MW produces only 45MW. Consequently, BPC imports 580MW of electricity mainly from South Africa, the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) and Nampower in Namibia.

The costs of the power imports, pile up to a staggering P250 million every month according to Moagi, which means that approximately P3 billion is blown on power imports in 12 months. The taxpayer foots this huge sum of money because of the mess at Morupule B, leading to delays that never end. While the 600MW expected from Morupule B was expected to cushion the taxpayer from losing so much money, its completion remains a pie in the sky. The COVID-19 will only make it worse.

Chinese contractor, China National Electric Engineering Company (CNEEC), is busy doing remedial works at Morupule B, the 600 Megawatts power station located in Palapye. Minister Moagi said the works were initially expected to be complete in June 2023. The first unit was supposed to have been completed in September 2020, but that timeline will be missed because of the COVID-19. “We know that completion of the remedial works will be delayed by the COVID-19, but we do not know for sure when the works will be completed now,” he revealed.
According to the Minister, CNEEC is unable to mobilize its engineers from China because of travel bans. The COVID-19 outbreak started in China in November last year and has brought the whole world to a standstill. CNEEC also imports most of the critical components needed for the remedial works from China. “Morupule B will be heavily affected. There will be prolonged delays,” he said.

While COVID-19 will play its part in delaying the completion of the power plant, it is the contractor who initially created a mess at Morupule B, which was supposed to have been completed seven years ago, ahead of the 2016 World Cup in South Africa.

It emerged that CNEEC manufactured and used the wrong equipment to construct Morupule B power plant. The design of the plant was also wrong. CNEEC also flouted quality assurance procedures and took shortcuts, so much that Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) was forced to order for the plant to be ‘rebuilt from scratch’, which would take an extra four years.
In previous conversation, BPC General Manager Generation – Zwelithini Witbooi said Morupule B’s biggest problem is the Fluidized Bed Heat Exchangers (FBHEs), which have to be redesigned and re-installed in all the four units at Morupule B. Minister Moagi also acknowledged this last week.

FBHE is an advanced process enhancement exchanger. It utilizes proven technology to provide a cost-effective and timely solution to severe heat exchanger fouling problems. A fluidized bed heat exchanger can solve fouling problems in shell and tube heat exchangers. According to Witbooi, a faulty FBHE reduces heat transfer and can even lead to reduced production capacity. He said the heat exchangers at Morupule B could not stand the heat inside the boilers, which reaches the highs of 800 degrees Celsius. The FBHEs are re-manufactured and imported from China. Minister Moagi said the re-manufacturing and importation of these components from China will be obstructed by the COVID-19, consequently affecting the completion of Morupule B.
The contractor is in the process of re-installing the first exchanger.

At Morupule B, Witbooi said things fell apart when the exchange heaters started malfunctioning in 2018. Around March 2018, Morupule B performance dropped to record lows, leaving only two units functioning.
He said investigations completed in 2016 by a German company called STEAG found that designs of the heat exchangers were wrong.

Temporary measures according to him, were put in place since Morupule B was the primary power supplier in Botswana, but they could not last long. Further, he said BPC is going to fix the Boiler Furnace Expansion and to also fix the Boiler Abrasion Resistant and Insulating Refectory. He said they were violated and could not stand the excessive heat inside the boilers. In simple terms, water naturally expands and contracts as it heats and cools, and air within the system provides a cushion that allows for expansion without damaging pipes or allowing the pressure relief valve (PRV) to expel water from the system, which Witbooi said was putting lives of people at risk, since it could explode.

Further, a very high level of abrasion resistance is required for the wall lining of the boilers, where a high level of corrosion resistance is required. The way the boilers were designed was in such a way that the wall lining were wearing off which could be disastrous according to Witbooi.

BPC will also have to replace Cold Air Ducts, which Witbooi said are leaking. These are the structures used to take hot air in and out of the boiler. The boiler fans also have to be redesigned. The installation of noise attenuation devices will also be done, since the noise output was higher than recommended.
BPC has engaged Fichtner GmbH & KG Co as Owner’s Engineer. Their role is to have oversight over the contractor – CNEEC. Witbooi said Fichtner has been empowered unlike before. “Previously, they had no authority over the contractor, which meant that even when faults were identified, they could not demand or authorize the contractor to stop,” he said, explaining simply that previously, CNEEC was unsupervised and they did as they pleased, including taking shortcuts. CNEEC- SBW Consortium – EPC Contractor is the main contractor.
Minister Moagi said all costs of the remedial works will be paid for by CNEEC. Initially, the Morupule B project was worth over P11 billion. The costs of the remedial works are estimated somewhere at P1.2 billion. Further Anhui No.2 is the Subcontractor for Construction.

Shanghai Power Supervision and Consultancy Co. Ltd is the subcontractor for supervision of testing of refractory during manufacturing.
Global Energy Interconnection Research Institute Co. Ltd is the subcontractor for supervision of refractory during installation.
Wuxi City Yigang Refractories Co. Ltd is Subcontractor for Refractory .Edwaleni Holdings (Pty)Ltd is the Subcontractor for scaffolding while NDT Services Africa has been subcontracted for Non-Destructive Testing
Other subcontractors yet to come to site: Manufacturers Representatives, Commissioning and
Performance Test Teams, Trial operation team and China Design Institute Representatives. Remedial works are expected to be complete by 2023.

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