No cogeneration agreement signed with Eskom, Sappi affirms

No cogeneration agreement signed, Sappi affirms.

Despite previous reports in the media, global pulp and paper producer Sappi has not as yet signed a cogeneration agreement with State-owned power utility Eskom. However, negotiations are still under way.

Further, Sappi regional communications manager Zelda Schwalbach reports that the company will not provide surplus power to Eskom, but will instead 
increase its internal generation and thereby reduce Sappi’s reliance on the utility.

“This is considered a national 
interest priority as Sappi is 
effectively freeing up power to be used by other consumers. 
“Recent articles in the media have incorrectly reported that Sappi will supply Eskom with 
45 MW of surplus power from its plants. 
“A spokesperson for the utility was also mistaken when he told the media that agreements had already been signed with Sappi,” she explains.

The company has been supplementing its power requirements since its Tugela mill started operations in Mandeni, KwaZulu-Natal, in 1954, which still operates one of the original turbines. 
Sappi has invested in cogeneration or combined heat and power, as it is critical to an 
efficient pulp and paper manu-
facturing process, which 
requires heat and electricity, 
explains Schwalbach. By optimising Sappi’s cogeneration and/or additional use of renewable primary fuel, the company will 
reduce its dependence on buying electricity and assist in the national shortage of electricity.

She adds that cogeneration has been part of the company’s manu-
facturing philosophy almost throughout its history, as Sappi currently has a number of cogeneration facilities at its mills across the Southern African region.

One such facility is the com-
pany’s Saiccor plant, in Umko-maas, south of Durban. 
The plant has had a 46-MW back-pressure turbine installed as part of its Amakhulu expan-
sion project, which was 
designed to increase production by 225 000 t/y of paper, without additional electricity being 
required from the national grid.

Schwalbach says that the 
replacement of the old power generation infrastructure contributes 21 MW of power and the newly created power generation infrastructure contributes 25 MW of power. 
Therefore, the cogeneration offer to decrease Sappi’s demand on Eskom for power only refers to the 25 MW of power. 
The 46-MW turbine is presently operational and overall plant optimisation is currently taking place. 
However, Sappi’s 10-MW Tugela project could, in future, be submitted in a bid to supply additional power to Eskom under its medium-term power purchase programme.

She explains that the company’s production of electricity through cogeneration involves passing high-pressure steam through a steam turbine.

“In doing so, the steam 
expands and causes the blades within the turbine to spin at a high speed. Electricity is produced in the process and the steam is exhausted from the turbine at low pressure. This steam is then used within the pulp and paper manufacturing process.”

Schwalbach says that cogeneration represents a far more efficient way of generating electricity, compared with Eskom’s coal-fired power stations, which predominantly produce condensing power. 
The fundamental difference between cogeneration and condensing power is that the 
exhaust steam from the turbine is used in a manufacturing operation in the case of cogeneration, whereas with condensing power, it is simply condensed. 
This means that a significant amount of heat is not used effi-
ciently in condensing power generation, whereas in cogeneration the heat is used within the factory.

The process of carbon 
dioxide (CO2) generation to create electricity involves a fuel being burnt in a boiler, which can be either coal or black liquor. 
Black liquor is a combination of spent cooking chemicals and organic material, which is produced by the chemical digestion of wood, a process which occurs in the manufacture of wood pulp used for paper making and chemical cellulose production.

“Because it consists of organic 
material from a renewable 
resource, namely our plantation 
forests, black liquor is considered 
a renewable or carbon neutral fuel. 
“This means that the CO2 generated from the combustion of black liquor and the CO2 absorbed by our forests are equivalent,” says Schwalbach.

She explains that there is a CO2 footprint attributable to electricity generation, which is determined by thermodynamic principles. The footprint of 
cogenerated electricity is substantially smaller than that of electricity generated by Eskom at its coal-fired power stations.

From October 2008, to September 2009, Sappi produced 39,9% of the power it consumed and imported the balance from Eskom. 
The company is considering a number of options to improve its degree of power self-sufficiency across the region’s mills.

Schwalbach explains that the viability of these opportunities is currently being investigated.
Many of the options are based on cogeneration and aim to 
reduce Sappi’s reliance on Eskom, 
while simultaneously reducing the company’s carbon footprint.

“Sappi has submitted two projects to Eskom, one for a 20-MW project at its Ngodwana mill, near Nelspruit, and the other for a 25-MW project at its Saiccor cellulose mill. 
“These projects do not represent surplus power but rather the amount of additional power that Sappi could generate internally as a result of 
investments at Ngodwana and the Amakhulu expansion project at Saiccor, as long as it makes commercial sense. 
“Sappi will ultimately require 45 MW less power from Eskom, power that the utility could use elsewhere in the grid.”

Sappi has also identified and evaluated a large number of other potential projects, adds Schwalbach. 
However, before the company can proceed, it has to determine whether the projects will fit into Sappi’s strategy for a particular site, the payback period based on projected price increases, and the terms offered by Eskom.

She says that the Ngodwana and Saiccor projects were implemented without an agreement being reached with Eskom as the projects made clear business sense to Sappi. 
Therefore, when an agreement is reached with Eskom, the projects will return the com-
pany’s investment.

Edited by: Brindaveni Naidoo

One Response to “No cogeneration agreement signed with Eskom, Sappi affirms”

  1. […] N&#959 cogeneration agreement signed w&#1110t&#1211 Eskom, Sappi affirms … […]

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