Automating the biggest power plant in Africa

ABB technology the keystone to bring reliable power supply to South Africa

Kusile, in the local African languages Ndebele and Swazi, means “the dawn has come.” This is certainly a fitting name for the 4,800 megawatt (MW) Kusile supercritical power station which will be the world’s fourth-largest coal-fired power station when fully operational in 2020. Located about 120 kilometers from the city of Johannesburg in the north-east region of the country, it will help boost South Africa’s overall power capacity, producing about 12 percent of South Africa’s generating capacity. For this massive project ABB is supplying a comprehensive control system, software and instrumentation solution for all six of the station’s 800-MW generating units.

Kusile will be the first power station in Africa to use wet flue gas desulphurization technology, as part of a new generation of high-pressure, high-temperature power installations. Kusile will be more efficient with lower emissions surpassing that of conventional coal-fired power plants (0.78 tons/MWh against 1.1 on average of other existing South African stations ), ensuring a long term, reliable source of baseload electricity for the region.

ABB is responsible for the control and instrumentation, and the balance of the plant (eBoP) for the entire plant, all of which will be seamlessly integrated and operated from the single control platform, the state-of-the-art ABB Ability™ Symphony Plus DCS (distributed control system).

The automation system will ensure the most effective plant operations by improving operational awareness, response times with decision-making, resulting in better availability and efficiency. ABB is also responsible for the design, manufac­ture, commissioning and testing of the distributed control system (DCS), the field instrumentation and the advanced condition monitoring system to check the equipment health and to provide failure diagnosis.

To automate a plant of this size and complexity requires over 200,000 I/O signals – far more than a typical subcritical power plant. When the Kusile power plant is complete, ABB will have supplied 755 DCS cubi­cles, 160 servers, 156 screens, almost 15,000 pressure and temperature instruments and more than 700 km of cable.

To realize this enormous automation project, ABB has drawn on its local engineering resources in South Africa as well as global engineering expertise, primarily from Italy and Germany. This core team has been supplemented by skills drawn from ABB’s European and Indian operational centers to create a truly international project team for Kusile.

ABB is a leader in providing automation and software for advanced clean coal power plants, including supercritical installations like Kusile. The project further strengthens ABB’s leading position as a provider of advanced automation and software solutions to electricity utilities globally and in the Southern African region, with systems already installed in South Africa, Lesotho, Malawi, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Today, many significant benefits of Symphony Plus are driven by digitalization. Part of the ABB AbilityTM portfolio of digital offerings, this control system adds value for customers by carefully collecting, analyzing and providing actionable insights on plant and engineering data in their systems, ultimately allowing them to lower project risk, reduce cost and throughput times, and improve asset performance and profitability. While overcoming the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution, ABB is able to draw on its long-standing spirit of innovation that represents its roots to the future. 

ABB AbilityTM Symphony® Plus is the latest generation of ABB’s highly successful Symphony family of control systems. With more than 6,800 systems installed in the past 35 years and more than 60 gigawatts of additional power capacity installed during the last six years, much of it in the power generation and water sectors, ABB has one of the largest installed bases of distributed control systems in the world.


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