Deputy President David Mabuza says it is premature to deal with remedial aspects in relation to Eskom’s investigation into the explosion at the Medupi Power Station.
Mabuza on Thursday was responding to questions in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) in Parliament following his return from Russia for medical treatment.
‘A very major event’
During the virtual sitting, Mabuza was asked by the Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) Hildegard Sonja Boshoff about discussions that have taken place regarding Eskom, particularly about the incident that occurred earlier this month, among other things.
Responding to the matter, the deputy president revealed that he was briefed by Eskom and the power utility indicated that the Medupi unit 4 explosion had been classified as “a very major event”.
He said the affected unit is likely to be offline for “a considerable time and period”, adding that “it was too early to address remedial actions”.
“That is why an investigation team comprising of Eskom and experts and the original equipment manufacturer has been appointed by Eskom to determine the root cause and the full extent of the damage caused.
“The people contributory aspect of the failure is part of the investigation scope. For now, it is too early to address remedial actions,” he said.
Eskom previously confirmed the suspension of eight employees after the explosion, pending finalisation of the investigation.
The employees include an operating manager, an outage manager, two shift managers and four senior plant operators.
The explosion took place at the coal-fired power plant near Lephalale in Limpopo just before 11pm on 7 August while hydrogen was being displaced with carbon dioxide and air, in order to find an external leak.
This procedure of displacing hydrogen with carbon dioxide and air is called purging.
After the explosion, which took place while the unit was on a short-term outage, it was found that while employees were finding the leak, there was still hydrogen in the generator, which created “an explosive mixture”.
This ignited and resulted in the explosion. The explosion resulted in extensive damage to the generator and other components within close proximity.
Eskom’s operating department was tasked with the purging of hydrogen from the generator prior to the leak search.
Last Wednesday, the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) briefed Parliament’s portfolio committee on public enterprises, where the department’s director-general Kgathatso Tlhakudi said the full extent of the damage was still to be determined.
Tlhakudi said preliminary investigations indicated that the explosion was a result of standard procedures not being followed.
The director-general revealed that an inspector of machinery had since completed the site inspection, while a recovery manager has also been appointed.
He further said the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) at the plant had been involved in the effort to repair the unit and return it to service.