Powerships Pitched to Eskom as South Africa Battles Crisis

Karpowership, a Turkish company that provides electricity from vessels moored offshore, said it has spoken to the South African government and the state utility about providing power to reduce shortages in the country.

The company, a subsidiary of Istanbul-based Karadeniz Holding AS, has surveyed the South African coastline for suitable sites to drop anchor, Sales Director Patrick O’Driscoll said in Johannesburg late Wednesday. As much as 2,000 megawatts of power could be added to the grid from five potential locations, he said.

Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., which generates about 95 percent of the country’s power, implemented almost-daily rolling blackouts in February. The company spends about 1 billion rand ($84 million) a month on diesel burned to constantly run turbines designed only for use at peak times because new power plants have been delayed and its aging facilities are overdue for maintenance.

Eskom said Thursday it had about 4,300 megawatts of capacity offline for planned maintenance, and about 6,900 megawatts unavailable because of unforeseen events.

O’Driscoll said he’s met with South Africa’s Department of Energy and Eskom, “however they don’t have a policy as such that says ‘we can go buy power generation on this basis.’” The question of whether to use the ships could be best addressed by a so-called war room headed by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa set up to address the energy crisis, he said.

Accra Blackouts

Karpowership has seven floating power plants in operation and is having its first 500-megawatt vessel built, O’Driscoll said. After supplying electricity to Iraq and Lebanon, Karpowership has agreed on financial terms to supply Ghana, where frequent powercuts black out parts of the capital, Accra.

Karpowership will supply 450 megawatts of electricity to the West African nation from two ships that burn heavy fuel oil or natural gas, O’Driscoll said.

The state Electricity Company of Ghana, or ECG, which produces less than half of the 3,000 megawatts its power plants are designed to deliver, has been rationing supplies to Accra for as long as 24 hours at a time since January. The day-long power cuts are typically followed by about 12 hours of electricity supply.

ECG is struggling to keep the lights on because of a shortage of gas to burn in its power plants and low water levels at its 1-gigawatt hydropower dam. The utility will use domestically supplied fuel arranged through the state oil company, O’Driscoll said. The company has 215 days from the financial close to reach commercial operation, he said.

The cost of operating the vessels should be less than 15 cents a kilowatt hour, about half the cost of operating open-cycle gas turbines, he said.

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