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Morupule B: Light at end of tunnel

After several months of despair following frequent power cuts across the country, Batswana may now be on the edge of real hope that change from the dark times is about to happen.

Allegorically speaking, the once ailing power plant, as the Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Kitso Mokaila would put it, is off the “life support system” although remaining “critical”.

“Morupule B is an issue of hope, which can only give us encouragement that we are heading in the right direction as stability is currently maintained,” said Mokaila in his latest routine visits to the power plant in Morupule, on the outskirts of the semi-urban village of Palapye recently.

Since early 2013, the country experienced frequent power cuts, which involved prolonged periods without electricity supply.

When the multibillion Pula Morupule B Power Station project started in 2008, it was supposed to be fully operational by 2012 producing 600Mega Watts (MW) electricity into the national power grid.

This was seen as a positive response to neighbouring South Africa’s reduction of power to Botswana and the rest of the South African Power Pool owing to increased domestic demand there.

Mokaila said there were certain interventions that were made and currently all units were up and running.

“Unit 1 has been deliberately taken down for some maintenance. As you might be aware, we did some analysis that informed us what we should do to address the tube leaks in the Fluidized Bed Heat Exchangers (FBHE). 

We have been doing modifications trying to address that and the machine has not run long enough to say we are happy, but there is progress and a bit of reliability as experienced by the current hours of running without cuts. There is need to do major replacement of the FBHE,” he said.

Morupule B Power Station boilers employ a Circulating Fluidized Bed (CFB) technology with external FBHE.

The boilers comprises of the furnace, cyclones, seal ports, FBHE’s induct burners and the convective section, which all constitute deferent refractory layers for heat insulation and protection of boiler pressure parts against abrasion.

Since commissioning after a diminutive period of time, the boilers have been experiencing refractory failures in more pronounced areas of the cyclones, seal ports and the induct burners leading to abrupt shut down and resulting in frequent power cuts.

Mokaila said they were now looking at taking out one unit at a time to do the repairs and redesigns of the boilers to give out the envisaged 30 to 40 years lifeline.

Quizzed on the power purchase agreement between Botswana and South African power utility Eskom, Mokaila said Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) was in talks with their long term power supplier to extend the current agreement for another three years under the same arrangements.

He also said BPC was talking to Mozambique’s publicly owned electricity company Electricidade de Mocambique (EDM) and Zimbabwe Power Corporation (ZPC) on buying their electricity.

 “ For as long as we can buy power cheaper than our diesel we will settle for buying but the most important thing is to produce our own power 100 percent,” he explained.

The minister said they were at the final stages of identifying a preferred bidder for the extension of Morupule B Unit 5 and 6.


Quick facts on Morupule B Power Station Project: 

•Morupule B is a 600MW coal fired power plant with 4 units of 150MW each. The last unit was taken over from the contractor in May 2014 and currently the plant is under defects liability period.

•The Plant was constructed by a consortium led by state owned China National Electric Equipment Corporation (CNEEC).

•Financing of the power plant was through a loan from Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) to BPC as well as equity injection from government. Financing of associated projects was through loans from World Bank and African Development Bank as well as equity from government funds.

•Coal for the plant is sourced from the adjacent Morupule Coal Mine through conveyor belts.

•There are other projects associated to the Morupule B namely transmission and water supply projects, which were completed within budget and are fully operational.

•Operation and Maintenance of the plant, Steag Energy Services of Germany has been contracted.  Ends