Turkey's Karpowership looks to plug South African power gap

Turkey's Karpowership, one of the world's largest power ship firms, has submitted a plan to South Africa to provide "several" ships capable of plugging a severe power shortage in the country, a senior company official said on Tuesday.

South Africa's State-owned power utility Eskom has regularly cut power over the past year, hobbling economic growth in Africa's most industrialized country as unreliable coal-fired plants struggle to generate enough electricity to meet demand.

In December, South Africa's energy department issued a request for information (RFI) to source between 2 000 MW and 3 000 MW of power generation capacity that could be connected in the shortest time, at the least cost.

"We have made a submission to the department as of last Friday and they received information on what is possible, where and how we would look to do it," said Patrick O'Driscoll, global sales director at Karpowership.

"We have identified several locations that we believe are potential injection points," he told Reuters on the sidelines of an African mining conference.

Karpowership currently provides around 4 100 MW of power from its fleet of ships, mainly in eight African nations but also in Cuba, across the Middle East and Asia, as well as in Indonesia.

It has 25 powerships - built at its shipyard in Turkey - operational today and a construction pipeline in excess of 4 400 MW of new vessels, O'Driscoll said.

Each ship, which anchors off-shore and connects to the electricity grid, is capable of providing a range of power options from 30 MW to around 600 MW and contracted for different lengths of time.

"It's no secret that Karpowership has the ability to respond now, so speed of delivery has been paramount to all of the work we've done in Africa," said O'Driscoll.

Illustrating the point, he said the company recently delivered and operated a 120 MW contract in Senegal within nine weeks.

South Africa's RFI calls for commercial operation following financial close of between three to six months or six to 12 months.

The power ships could run on multiple fuels, mainly natural gas and liquefied natural gas but also diesel, an important factor for cash-strapped Eskom.

Eskom has said it spends billions of rand annually to supply diesel for its open cycle gas turbines, which it uses during emergency supply constraints to help keep the national electricity grid stable.

"I can give guarantees and assurances that Karpowership will be significantly less, maybe even half the cost of those peakers," he said of Eskom's open cycle gas turbines

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