4 January 2016

South Africa: Majuba's Mr Fix-It to Hit Ground Running At Medupi

The Eskom manager who brought Majuba back to operation after the silo collapse is replacing Roman Crookes as Medupi's project director with immediate effect.

Eskom on Monday appointed Phillip Dukashe to replace Crookes to run Medupi power station without a handover from Crookes.

Crookes, who was set to leave at the end of January, will leave with immediate effect, Eskom CEO Brian Molefe told a radio station on Monday.

According to Business Tech, Molefe said the handover process was overrated.

In response to Molefe's interview, energy expert Chris Yelland tweeted that there is "more to this than Eskom lets on".

Dukashe, who has worked at Eskom for 22 years, will now head up Eskom's critical new build project to introduce 4 800 MW of coal power into the country's ailing grid.

After years of delays, Medupi's first unit brought 800 MW onto the grid in 2015, while the next unit is set to be completed in early 2017. The overall project is set to be completed between 2019 and 2020.

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe told Fin24 that Dukashe has been instrumental in bringing Majuba Power Station back to operation, after a silo collapse in 2014 dented its operations.

"He was successful in implementing a short-term solution to feed coal to the power station on a mobile feeder system, while starting the process to rebuild the silo," said Phasiwe.

Majuba's silo collapse in November 2014 plunged the country into load shedding after its capacity was eroded from 3 600 MW to 1 400 MW. To increase the capacity to its original levels, Eskom used over 1 000 trucks to transport coal, but the new system has decreased this to 90 trucks. The new silo is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.

Dukashe's LinkedIn profile lists him as general manager of Gx Coal Projects at Eskom. Before that, he managed a major coal power plant and was also the chief nuclear officer at Koeberg nuclear power plant, according to Phasiwe.

"We want someone to hit the ground running at Medupi," said Phasiwe. "Eskom plans to either meet or beat the deadlines set for Medupi. This will happen while adhering to all the normal standards and it won't be done in a hurry."

He said the labour unrest that occurred in 2015 had ended, with the union members deciding to stop their illegal action, which resulted in them receiving no salaries for a few months.

"The labour situation has stabilised and there are no issues at all now," said Phasiwe.

Yelland told Fin24 on Sunday that he was concerned over the resignation of Crookes.

Yelland told Fin24 Crookes' departure "obviously raises concerns about the institutional memory within Eskom as the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) main contractor".

"One hopes that there will be a sufficiently experienced team at Eskom and at the Medupi site to ensure continuity and a smooth succession that will not result in any further delays," he said.

Phasiwe said Crookes' departure is not a major concern, as there are other managers working very closely on the project and thus know what's going on.

"There has also been a lot of cross pollination of experience and expertise between the teams at Medupi and Kusile," which will make a "handover process seamless", Phasiwe said.

"Roman has delivered the first 800 MW Unit into commercial service in August last year and leaves behind a strong and experienced management team who will continue to drive Medupi forward to completion," said Phasiwe.

Crookes, who has been project director for the Medupi construction project from the beginning, will vacate his post with immediate effect to pursue an opportunity abroad, Molefe told a radio station on Monday.

Source: Fin24

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