Majuba power station. Picture: ESKOM
Majuba power station. Picture: ESKOM

THE Eskom manager who brought Majuba back to operation after the silo collapse is replacing Roman Crookes as Medupi’s project director with immediate effect.

Eskom on Monday appointed Phillip Dukashe to replace Mr Crookes to run Medupi power station without a handover from Mr Crookes.

Mr Crookes, who was set to leave at the end of January, would leave with immediate effect, Eskom CEO Brian Molefe told a radio station on Monday.

BusinessTech reported that Mr Molefe had said the handover process was overrated.

In response to Mr Molefe’s interview, energy expert Chris Yelland tweeted that there was "more to this than Eskom lets on".

Mr Dukashe, who has worked at Eskom for 22 years, will now head Eskom’s critical new build project to introduce 4,800MW of coal power into the country’s ailing grid.

After years of delays, Medupi’s first unit brought 800MW onto the grid in 2015, while the next unit is set to be completed in early 2017. The overall project is set to be completed between 2019 and 2020.

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said Mr Dukashe had been instrumental in bringing Majuba Power Station back to operation, after a silo collapse in 2014 dented its operations.

"He was successful in implementing a short-term solution to feed coal to the power station on a mobile feeder system, while starting the process to rebuild the silo," said Mr Phasiwe.

Majuba’s silo collapse in November 2014 plunged the country into load shedding after its capacity was reduced from 3,600MW to 1,400MW. To increase the capacity to its original levels, Eskom used more than 1,000 trucks to transport coal, but the new system has decreased this to 90 trucks. The new silo is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.

Mr Dukashe’s LinkedIn profile lists him as general manager of Gx Coal Projects at Eskom. Before that, he managed a major coal power plant and was also the chief nuclear officer at Koeberg nuclear power plant, Mr Phasiwe said.

"We want someone to hit the ground running at Medupi," said Mr Phasiwe. "Eskom plans to either meet or beat the deadlines set for Medupi. This will happen while adhering to all the normal standards and it won’t be done in a hurry."

He said the labour unrest that occurred in 2015 had ended, with union members deciding to stop their illegal action, which resulted in them receiving no salaries for a few months.

"The labour situation has stabilised and there are no issues at all now," said Mr Phillip.

Mr Yelland said on Sunday that he was concerned about the resignation of Mr Crookes.

Mr Yelland said Mr Crookes’s departure "obviously raises concerns about the institutional memory within Eskom as the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) main contractor".

"One hopes that there will be a sufficiently experienced team at Eskom and at the Medupi site to ensure continuity and a smooth succession that will not result in any further delays," he said.

Mr Phasiwe said Mr Crookes’s departure was not a major concern as there were other managers working closely on the project and thus knew what was going on.

"There has also been a lot of cross pollination of experience and expertise between the teams at Medupi and Kusile," which would make a "handover process seamless", Mr Phasiwe said.

"Roman ... delivered the first 800MW unit into commercial service in August last year and leaves behind a strong and experienced management team who will continue to drive Medupi forward to completion," said Mr Phasiwe.

Mr Crookes, who had been project director for the Medupi construction project from the beginning, would vacate his post with immediate effect to pursue an opportunity abroad, Mr Molefe said on Monday.