Eskom Enterprises
Balfour, Mpumalanga, South Africa

Eskom Grootvlei Power Station - Return to Service

The contract with Eskom was to support the recommissioning of a mothballed 1,200-megawatt power station.

Fluor, in a joint venture with Pangaea and an alliance with Eskom, provided construction management, health and safety, and industrial relations leadership and systems for the project. Fluor also provided project management for the boiler, utilities, and offsites areas. Experienced staff provided expertise in systems, project controls, procurement, contracts, and technical document control.

Client's Challenge

Eskom is the largest producer of electricity in South Africa.

Its Grootvlei station consists of six 200-megawatt coal-fired units, all of which were shut down around 1990 because demand was lacking. The power base and peak power demand in South Africa had grown over the years to such an extent that the mothballed power station units were reactivated to alleviate situations where power was not available during peak times of the day.

Grootvlei was one of three Eskom power stations being recommissioned. The first unit was returned to service in 2007, with completion of all six units accomplished by early 2010.

Running a base load power plant just to meet peak demand was expensive; thus, the Grootvlei Station was converted to a two-shift station. Its operating regimes had to be redesigned so that it could be started up to meet peak demand in the morning and evening hours.

As stipulated in the contract with Eskom, Fluor/Pangaea also provided plant operation skills to the local operators.

Fluor's Solution

Fluor teamed with Pangaea, a South African engineering company. The joint venture was responsible for project and construction management, project controls, safety, contracting and procurement, and people development. Engineering and commissioning functions were led by Eskom, supported by the joint venture team.

To keep the cost of power down at the “two-shifting” station, the amount of coal burned had to be reduced. Fluor introduced a low-NOX burner that could operate at a low load, burn low-grade coal, reduce NOX emissions, and still maintain a stable flame.

Fluor and Pangaea utilized a database tool to capture needed technical knowledge and behavior competencies, as well as their own experience with operating the equipment found in the plant. Fluor defined a spectrum of jobs at the plant, benchmarked the current and ideal profile for each, and identified development gaps that should be filled for efficient plant operation. An active training and development program greatly increased the project management skills of Eskom personnel, and the joint venture's “Capacity Building Programme” transferred the technical knowledge and the behavior competencies needed by Eskom personnel to run the plant.


Fluor took the lead in facilitating employment of local rural labour, with 3,000 of the local population working on the jobs at peak. Thus local residents and future power plant operators were able to learn much about their trades as they participated in bringing the Grootvlei power plant back into service.

The three units were in commercial operation by 2008.

The project received 27 Eskom Chairman's Awards for Safety performance.