The construction of Eskom’s Medupi and Kusile power stations remains one of the biggest and most complicated developments in South African history. This means that even the smallest contracts on-site, especially those aimed at speeding up construction timeframes, are critical writes Laura Cornish.

South Africa has been watching the Lephalale-based Medupi power station take shape since Eskom first announced its development in 2005. Despite encountering numerous unforeseen challenges and difficulties over the years, the project has started gaining momentum as the boiler 6 commissioning period grows closer.


In July 2011, steel, mechanical, piping and platework (SMPP) fabricator and erection specialist Steval Engineering (Steval) was appointed to provide labour and supervision to the project. Its mandate was to speed up the erection time of Medupi’s boiler 6.

“This entailed steel modifications and the pre-assembly of structural steel on-site, away from boiler, thereby enabling the cranes around the boiler to operate in an optimised manner,” explains Steval project director, Roger Bester.

And what started out as a relatively small project scope has continued to grow, expand and evolve ever since. “We are now also responsible for the erection of ancillary plantpiping andcertain mechanical items, as well as the erection of certain components of the mainframe and sidewalls and welding of ducting for boilers 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6,” Bester continues. Steval is further providing assistance with bolting protocols on boiler 6, which Bester explains have to be at a specific torque setting. In addition to this, Stevalis also responsible for the installation of most of thefloor grating and hand railing at boilers 5 and 6.

To date, Steval has erected the ash hopper on boiler 6 (completed in June 2012) and boiler 5 (completed in November 2012) and is currently erecting the mainframe and sidewalls on boiler 4.

“Steval is a relatively small entrepreneurial company whose philosophy is centred onthe supervision of its labour. Our supervisor/labour ratio is higher than the average industry norm, which equates to improved on-site control and a higher work standard and level of productivity. The size and nature of the company also empowers us to make quick decisions and react to situations on-site quickly.”

While Bester admits that the greatest challenge on-site is“sticking to”its core focus and strengths, Steval’s work standard has never been compromised and its delivery remains of the highest quality.

Its 380-strong labour force, approximately half locally sourced, is split between a day and night shift. The day shift is responsible for achieving outset tasks while the night shift is responsible for optimising the progress achievedon-site.

“The ongoing extension of our original appointment is testimony alone to our service delivery standard. This project now represents one of our largest contracts to date, which we hope will continue going forward,” Bester notes.

The company’s safety record is also worth acknowledging, having only recorded a single lost-time-injury (LTI) in almost two years on-site.

Medupi at a glance

  • based in Lephalale
  • coal-fired power station
  • will comprise six boiler units
  • total installed capacity –4 788 MW
  • Medupi means “rain that soaks parched lands, giving economic relief”
  • The boilers are scheduled to be commissioned at six-monthly intervals, in line with international practice
  • the power station will include a supercritical plant, able to operate at higher temperatures and pressures than previous generation boilers, and operate with greater efficiency
  • the supercritical design is a first for Eskom, and with the higher efficiency will result in better use of natural resources such as water and coal, and will have improved environmental performance
  • Medupi will be the biggest dry-cooled power station in the world
  • the boiler and turbine contracts for Medupi were the largest contracts that Eskom has ever signed in its 86-year history
  • the planned operational life of the station is 50 years
  • the site measures 883 ha and was previously used for game and cattle grazing.

Steval’s positive contribution to the Medupi project has carried through to Eskom’s second new power station, Kusile.

In February 2013, the company was awarded a bolting protocols contract for the boilers with the installation of structural steel, floor grating and hand railing to follow. One hundred employees have been allocated to site for the project.

“Medupi has taught us invaluable lessons, particularly with regards to costing, which has already carried over to our Kusile contract. Our job performance is incentive driven, which we believe will drive our employees to perform to the highest standards.”

Kusile at a glance

  • based in the Nkangala district of Mpumalanga close to the existing Kendal power station
  • coal-fired power station
  • will compromise six boiler units
  • total installed capacity – 4 800 MW
  • it will be one of the largest coal-fired power stations in the world
  • the Kusile site is about 1 344 ha in size
  • the power station will be the first in the country to have flue gas desulphurisation (FGD) installed – a state-of-the-art technology used to remove oxides of sulphur from the exhaust flue gases in power plants that burn coal or oil
  • it will receive coal from Anglo American Thermal Coal’s New Largo and Zondagfontein mines.
  • The combination of the resources will yield no less than 800 Mt over a period no shorter than 47 years
Other recent Steval projects

Beira Petroleum products storage terminal

  • Client:                   Glencore
  • Location:              Mozambique
  • Duration:             14 months
  • Completed:        2013
  • Scope:                  Turnkey project – tanks, piping, separators, pumps, truck loading and offloading station, firewater, structural steel and civil works
Konoko Copper (Konkola)

  • Client:                   DRA Minerals Projects
  • Location:              Zambia
  • Duration:             12 months
  • Completed:        2012
  • Scope:                  Fabrication and erection of structural steel, steel platework, and mechanical installations.

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