Eskom Tutuka Power Station: Keeping the lights switched on

Supplying South Africa’s electricity demand is about so much more than just generating power. Infrastructure is a key element to successful and reliable energy supply, with the onus very much cast on Eskom to deliver.


In September the news came through that work had commenced on the construction of a 68 kilometre heavy haul private railway line to the Majuba power station that will help alleviate traffic congestion by lowering the number of coal-laden heavy trucks using Mpumalanga’s roads.

The R5.2 billion investment, which will help put 21-million metric (mt) tonnes of coal on trains each year, actually began in May of 2013 and is scheduled for completion in May 2016, according to Eskom.

In a statement, Eskom recognized the need for improved infrastructure in order to meet increasing demand: “The construction of this dedicated railway comes as Eskom ramps up output at its Majuba power station to meet South Africa’s growing need for power.”

Eskom said the coal line project would consist of a private railway line starting approximately 8 kilometres west of Ermelo and would be accessible to various coal mines in the area. The power station is 74 kilometres south of the town, inside KwaZulu-Natal.

One of the other power stations to benefit from the rail line, which was first discussed a decade ago, is the Tutuka Power Station outside Standerton.

Also located in Mpumalanga, Tutuka Power Station is another coal-fired power plant and the first unit was commissioned back in 1985, with the last going online in June 1990. The plant is located between Standerton and Bethal and roughly 25 kilometres from Standerton.

Today it operates has six 609MW units with a total installed capacity of 3,654MW with turbine Maximum Continuous Rating at 38 per cent. Tutuka is considered to be an important link in the 765kV extra-high-voltage transmission system linking Mpumalanga with the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal and has a twin sister station in the form of the Duvha Power Station.

According to Eskom, the Tutuka Power Station employs some 950 people and commenting on its operational efficiency, the Goverment agency indicates that the average availability over the last 3 years has been at a rate of 93.41 per cent, with the average production over the same period calculated at 8,962GWh.

Electricity is produced after coal has been ground into a fine powder at each unit. It is then used to fire an enormous boiler which stands roughly 96 metres in height. The steam which is created drives a turbine which turns a generator, producing electricity, which is sent via transmission lines to help feed City Power in Johannesburg, where it helps to light up the city.

Initiatives like the building on the rail link will of course further enhance capabilities at Tutuka, whilst investment in technology also plays an important part.

In June 2011, it was announced that Eskom had selected Yokogawa South Africa (Pty) Ltd., a subsidiary of Japanese company Yokogawa Electric Corporation, to supply control systems and instrumentation for the Outside Plant and Water Treatment Plant at Tutuka Power Station.

At the time, the 2 companies already had an excellent track record working together, with Eskom having purchased more than 3,000 pressure/differential pressure transmitters from Yokogawa. The 2011 contract however, broke new ground as this was Eskom’s first control systems order with the supplier.

Commenting at the time of the news, Yokogawa outlined its role: “This contract is for a large-scale project to replace ageing transmitters and other field instruments as well as the aforementioned supply of control systems for the auxiliary facilities that are used by all the generating units. Project completion is scheduled for June 2013.

For this project, Yokogawa will supply CENTUM® VP series integrated production control systems, the PRM® integrated device management package for monitoring and diagnosis of plant equipment, Exaquantum® plant information management systems, and DPharp™ series pressure/differential pressure transmitters. Yokogawa South Africa will undertake this project wholly, including delivery, engineering, installation, commissioning and handing over to Eskom the fully functional plant.

Yokogawa was able to win this order as a result of high acclaim for the Yokogawa pressure/differential pressure transmitters already delivered to Eskom and Yokogawa South Africa’s excellent engineering and process knowledge capability and customer-centric services. At the contract signing ceremony, Ryno la Cock, Tutuka Power Station Manager said: “We are looking forward to improved plant operational efficiency with the latest control technology and technical support from Yokogawa.“”

Herman van den Berg, managing director of Yokogawa SA, added: “Yokogawa is pleased to join forces with Eskom to upgrade the water systems at the Tutuka Power Station. We believe there is great synergy and expertise between the two teams that will be collaborating on the Centum VP installation at the water handling plant. We will be offering Eskom a complete turnkey solution coupled with training for the personnel at Tutuka. This Yokogawa/Eskom partnership launches an exciting new phase in our working relationship, which I believe will pave the way for a lasting and constructive partnership. We are committed to bringing honesty, open communication and technical excellence to the relationship.”

La Cock, stated: “We are looking forward to the support and technical know-how that Yokogawa has committed to giving us. The selection process was long, but the cutting edge technology that Yokogawa offers us, I believe, will enhance our water handling plant operations. We are looking forward to working with the Yokogawa team.

Eskom continues to progress with its Build Programme in South Africa, recognising the need to construct additional power stations and power lines throughout the country. The organisation reports that its capacity expansion budget is R385 billion up to 2013 and is expected to grow to more than a trillion rand by 2026. Ultimately Eskom will double its capacity to 80,000MW by 2026.

Since the programme started in 2005, an additional 4453.5 MW has already been commissioned. The plan is to deliver an additional 16 304MW in power station capacity by 2017.

That in no way understates the important role of Tutuka Power Station it merely underlines the significant value of South Africa’s existing power stations which have an essential part to play in the nation’s energy future.