I loved the way news about the failure of the Hitachi boilers at the still-under-construction Medupi power plant was handled. While conceding that Hitachi, partly owned now directly by the African National Congress (ANC) through its investment arm, Chancellor House, and through which it got the multibillion-rand boiler contract in the first place, had made a mess of the boilers Eskom required, the spin was that there were many other problems at the plant as well.
Yes, maybe, but none of them were brought to us courtesy of the ANC’s party-funding machine. I trust Eskom has the courage to require significant penalties from Hitachi for the mess. Medupi was supposed to come onstream this year. I doubt it will, in any meaningful way, because the boiler problem is just too serious. Remember, too, that Hitachi/ANC is also supplying boilers to Kusile, the coal-fired station that is set to follow Medupi.
Between them, the two power stations will add 10% to SA’s generating capacity. But until Hitachi gets its act together and produces a boiler that won’t explode as the steam inside it builds to unthinkable pressure levels, they’ll produce nothing.
At its most basic, the boiler in a power station acts like a kettle (in this case brought to the boil by hot coal). The steam it makes then has to be sufficiently powerful to drive huge turbines, which ultimately generate the electricity. What has gone wrong with the first Hitachi boiler is that tests have confirmed that many of the welds in it are unsound.
I don’t know to what extent Chancellor House may have been involved in trying to cut back on incidental costs such as welding in order to increase its returns on the Eskom scam, but these welds are going to cost them dearly. So much for getting into business!
Not only should Eskom already be collecting on penalties but it should, at Hitachi/ ANC cost, be recruiting expert international help to make doubly sure that the next 11 boilers Hitachi makes for them can actually do the job they’re there for.
Read the rest of the article at: http://www.bdlive.co.za/opinion/columnists/2013/03/11/thick-end-of-the-wedge-hitachi-runs-out-of-steam