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By Staff writer for Bussiness Tech (click here for original article)

Eskom’s emissions performance has continued its sharp decline, risking the possible shutdown of three major power stations.

Eskom has reported that its emissions performance has worsened significantly in the past year. The company revealed in the utility’s interim results for the six months to the end of September 2023 that it produced 0.92kg of particulate matter per MWh of electricity, double the level seen in the previous year.

Eskom has attributed much of the blame to Kendal, Kriel, and Matla power stations, responsible for nearly half of the company’s total particulate matter emissions. Eskom stated that its “relative particulate emissions performance has continued to deteriorate and is significantly worse than the target.”

At the end of September, 14 units across Eskom’s fleet were operating in non-compliance with average monthly emissions limits – placing 8,588 MW at risk of being shut downreported Daily Investor.

Eskom has stated that it is still in discussions with the National Environmental Consultative and Advisory Forum regarding appeals for their Minimum Emissions Standards.

These discussions have been extended until August 2024. The forum will provide a recommendation to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment, and subsequently, Minister Barbara Creecy will make a ruling on the appeals.

During these discussions, Eskom’s power stations will continue to operate under the existing conditions. However, there has been a slight improvement in Eskom’s emissions performance compared to the levels seen in June.

Data released by the National Treasury revealed that Eskom’s coal fleet emissions skyrocketed over the last year – from 0.40kg/MWh to 1.01kg/MWh at the end of June 2023.

The data also showed that 17 of Eskom’s units are non-compliant with average monthly emission limits, threatening their continued operation at the end of June.

Despite a slight improvement from the end of June, Eskom’s greenhouse gas emissions remain significantly higher than the targeted levels, causing severe impact on the communities residing near its power stations.

According to the 2021 report by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), Eskom has emerged as the world’s largest emitter of sulfur dioxide, which is detrimental to human health.

The report also suggested that air pollution from Eskom’s coal-fired power plants could lead to the premature deaths of approximately 79,500 people from 2025 until the plants are set to be shut down.

The study also noted that numerous coal-fired power plants owned by Eskom breach South African emission standards.

Daily Investor previously contacted Eskom regarding the sharp deterioration in its emissions performance.

Eskom said the elevated emissions from power stations are primarily due to ageing emission abatement equipment that has operated beyond their midlife refurbishment, poor coal quality, and insufficient maintenance.

Eskom has installed technologies such as Pulsed Jet Fabric Filters, Electrostatic Precipitators (ESP, High-Frequency Power Supplies (HFPS), and Sulphur dioxide conditioning (SO2) plants to reduce particulate emissions.

This achieved a 75% reduction in particulate emissions between 1982 and 2023. However, in recent years, the operating effectiveness of these technologies has been negatively impacted.

Late investments and system constraints have negatively impacted the time available for large-scale upgrades and maintenance of the emission abatement equipment.

Power stations and associated emission abatement technologies are designed for specific coal qualities. When power stations such as Matla and Tutuka receive coal outside the design specifications, the ash plant cannot manage the increased ash burden.

This leads to ash build-up in the abatement equipment, which significantly affects the equipment’s ability to remove dust from the flue gas.

Several projects are underway to reduce the emissions from Eskom’s power stations. Projects are currently being executed at Kendal, Lethabo, Duvha and Matla.

Most of these projects will be completed before March 2025.

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