Reducing particulate and gaseous emissions

Particulate emission performance was marginally better than the target and remained consistent with 2012/13, indicating that maintenance measures and technological advances are starting to yield environmental benefits.

Power stations with fabric filter plant continue to sustain low emission levels. However, challenges are experienced with emissions at many of the stations with electrostatic precipitators. This is due to a range of factors, including capacity constraints and the limited space available for maintenance. At some stations a decline in the coal quality and the high load factors together result in overburdened dust handling plant.

Eskom remains committed to reducing emissions to minimise the effect of its operations in terms of health and the environment, and to comply with regulated emission standards. Eskom has completed maintenance at several stations to improve emissions performance. Given the constrained power system situation, there may not be enough planned outages for Eskom to rollout similar maintenance across the entire fleet before new national emissions standards come into effect in 2015.

The programme to retrofit fabric filter plant on at least five power stations in the existing fleet continues, with the possible completion of the first unit at Grootvlei power station expected in 2016.

Eskom has received new atmospheric emission licences for most of its power stations. In the case of Kriel power station, Eskom’s request to increase the particulate emissions limit and to allow a grace period for when emissions exceed the limit of the new licence, has been denied. Every effort will be made to comply with the conditions of the licence. The new limit does not allow the station to continuously operate at its full rated power and will require load losses during off-peak time. This will increase cost if other levers, such as OCGTs, have to be used to supplement this reduction in load.

Compliance with National Emission Standards

Eskom has embarked on an extensive retrofit programme to reduce emissions at the highest emitting power stations. The execution of this programme will require long outages and a significant amount of capital (currently R72 billion in nominal terms), and will achieve 57% compliance with the National Emission Standards by 2026. Despite this, Eskom is unable to comply fully with the new National Emission Standards, which come into effect in 2015 and 2020, for several reasons.

Implementation of certain of the required technologies requires additional water which is not presently available
Implementation of the required technologies requires plant outages of 120-150 days per unit and there is insufficient spare capacity to enable the required outages to be taken across the fleet before 2015 or in some cases 2020 without impacting on the ability to meet national electricity demand
The long planning horizons required for these capital projects means that it is simply not possible to execute most of the retrofits in time

Given this situation, in February 2014 Eskom submitted an application for a five-year postponement of compliance to the standards in cases where compliance within the legislated timeframe is not possible. A response is expected from the authorities within six to nine months.