Mechanical engineering contracting company SA Five Engineering says State-owned power utility Eskom’s Ingula pumped-storage scheme’s commissioning is set to be completed by the end of next month.
“The construction of Ingula is complete and only the commissioning needs to be done. Unit 3 and Unit 4 have also been synchronised and brought on line a year ahead of our schedule; hence, it will be completed by next month,” highlights SA Five Engineering Group CEO William O’Brien.
The company started working on the project, which has a capital cost of between R300-million and R400-million, in 2012. On completion, the project will have a generating capacity of 1 333 MW during peak demands to assist when necessary, he adds.
Ingula is a new hydropower station on the borders of the Free State and KwaZulu- Natal, comprising an upper and a lower dam.
Engineering News reported last month that the reservoirs would be connected through underground waterways and the underground powerhouse complex. The complex will house four 333 MW pump turbines, with a total capacity of 1 333 MW, and a machine hall and transformer hall, as well as associated tunnels, shafts and caverns.
Additionally, the twin headrace waterways – consisting of concrete and steel-lined headrace tunnels, pressure tunnels and shafts – will link the upper reservoir with the pump turbines. The draft tubes, concrete-lined surge shafts and concrete-lined tailrace tunnel will connect the pump turbines to the lower reservoir.
The upper reservoir is a concrete-faced rockfill embankment dam, 41 m high, with a total capacity of 22.4-million cubic metres and an active water storage volume of 19.2-million cubic metres. The 39-m-high lower dam comprises roller-compacted concrete, with a total capacity of 26.3-million cubic metres and an active storage volume of 21.9-million cubic metres.
He points out that the project has also pro-vided SA Five Engineering with an oppor-tunity to use its skilled employees and employ young local engineers: “We have employed 300 skilled [workers] . . . which is beneficial for the industry and the community . . . This contributes to their skills . . . [and] abilities to continue working . . .”
O’Brien highlights that logistics has been challenging. He emphasises that the materials and equipment used – such as the large steel structures and equipment to be installed – had to be transported down a tunnel and then installed underground.
“The project . . . is about 2 km below the surface . . . where the plant is being built, “ he says, adding that transporting material to and from the plant was, therefore, one of the biggest challenges.
However, O’Brien asserts that SA Five Engineering planned in advance and did day-to-day planning to ensure that work was carried out efficiently.
O’Brien concludes that, with the completion of the Ingula project approaching, SA Five Engineering Group is fortunate enough to have R300-million to R500-million in pending projects. “The company has a major contract with State-owned freight utility Transnet in South Africa – a large and crucial part of the freight logistics chain in Cape Town harbour – doing the upgrades on all the fire systems that Transnet uses to bring in the oil tankers.”