The 4.8GW Kusile coal-fired power project under construction in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa is expected to achieve full capacity by 2023. Owned and operated by South African state-owned power utility Eskom, it will be one of the world’s biggest coal-fired power stations.

The construction of the Kusile power plant was started in 2007 with all six generating units of the facility originally scheduled for commissioning by 2017. However, theKusile project, along with the Medupi power plant project, has suffered delays due to cost overruns and design flaws. The project cost has escalated to £6.8bn ($10bn)from an original estimate of £4.7bn ($7bn).

The first unit of the power plant achieved commercial operation in August 2017, three years behind the original schedule, while the second and third units were synchronized to the national grid by 2019.

After achieving full capacity in 2023, the 4.8GW coal-fired facility is expected to generate enough electricity for approximately three million South African households.

Location and site details 

The Kusile power plant is located on a 1,355ha-site near the existing Kendal power station near Witbank, in the Nkangala district of Mpumalanga, South Africa, to the east of Johannesburg. 

Kusile power plant make-up

The Kusile power station comprises of six supercritical coal-fired units of 800MW capacity each. Each unit comprises of steam turbine and generator along with an air-cooled condenser, and a supercritical coal-fired boiler supplied by Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS). The plant uses advanced control and instrumentation system provided by ABB.

The 4.8GW coal power plant will use two 220m-high reinforced concrete chimneys, each housing three 8m-diameter steel flue stacks.

The Kusile power plant units will also be equipped with wet limestone flue gas desulphurisation (FGD) systems to control sulphur emissions. The plant also uses a dry cooling system to minimize water usage.

The other infrastructure facilities for the project include water and waste treatment plant, ash disposal system, coal and ash conveyors, coal stockyard, limestone offloading facilities, access roads, and a railway siding for coal transportation.

The water required for the thermal power station will be supplied from the Vaal River.

Coal supply for the Kusile power plant

Eskom and Anglo American Inyosi Coal signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the coal supply to the Kusile power station from the New Largo coal mine in November 2014.

The Kusile power station was to receive 14 million tonnes (Mt) of coal per annum from the New Largo mine for a period of 47 years. The coal was planned to be supplied to the project site through a 23km conveyor from the Phola power plant.

Anglo American sold the New Largo thermal coal project to New Largo Coal Proprietary, which is a joint venture of Seriti Resources and Coalzar, in August 2018.

Kusile coal-fired power project finance

Eskom secured £1bn (€1.18bn)syndicated loan covered by COFACE from five French banks BNP Paribas, Calyon, Societe Generale, Natixis, and CIC to fund turbines for the Medupi and Kusile power stations in December 2009.

Eskom also received a £633m ($1bn) syndicated loan to fund the boilers hat was covered by Euler Herms Bank and provided by Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, KfW IPEX-Bank, Nedbank, Rand Merchant Bank, Standard Bank.

The US Export-Import bank signed a loan agreement worth £491m ($805mn)with Eskom in May 2011. 

Contractors involved 

GE was awarded the engineering, procurement, and commissioning (EPC) contract for six turbine islands along with air-cooled condensers, and wet flue gas desulphurisation units at Kusile power plant.

Mitsubishi Hitachi Power System (MHPS) is responsible for the supply of boilers and auxiliaries for the project. 

ABB was awarded a contract worth £106m ($160m) for providing advanced automation, control, and instrumentation for the thermal power project in March 2015.

Hadek was contracted to supply the pennguard lining protective system for the chimneys at Kusile power plant while a consortium of Karrena Africa, Concor, and Beroa Deutschlandas engaged to construct the chimneys.

Kusile Civil works joint venture comprising Stefanutti Stocks, Group 5, Basil Read, and WBHO Construction was awarded the main civil construction works for the Kusile power project in 2008.

Mageba Group supplied spherical and pot bearings for primary conveyors of the project, while Matt Macdonald was contracted to deliver the water treatment facilities for the coal-fired power project. 

Black and Veatch International provided technical advisory services for the Kusile thermal power project.