Eskom's Medupi power station near Lephalale.
Eskom's Medupi power station near Lephalale.

“Eskom’s Medupi, Kusile hobbled by design flaws” (12 February 2019) refers. The main contract for Medupi was signed by Eskom and Hitachi on October  30 2007.The subcontract was signed by Hitachi and Murray & Roberts (M&R) on December 6 2007.

M&R had limited recent experience in the construction of power stations, which resulted in a co-operation agreement being executed by which all dealings between Hitachi and M&R were to be conducted in the utmost good faith. Hitachi undertook to bring the necessary expertise to M&R to fulfil its role in the partnership.

According to M&R, the biggest challenge in this project is the management and implementation of revisions from Hitachi. Hitachi has provided continuously changing basic engineering designs, which have led to:

  • Significant delay and disruption to M&R.
  • No recovery of the learning curve savings and little prospect of future recovery.
  • Inefficient connection design, detail engineering and fabrication process, leading to M&R incurring significant additional costs and losses.
  • An inability to achieve the fabrication rates allowed in the prices as discussed and agreed with Hitachi as part of the collaborative process.
  • The reincorporation of seismic considerations within the Hitachi design.

Depending on how far the process is, a change from Hitachi would require a corresponding change in the connection design, a change in detailing and refabrication of the relevant members. It is therefore imperative that there be an effective design management system in place to facilitate the implementation of the changes with the least disruption in production.

Due to the fast-tracking of Medupi, a number of decisions had to be made, often based on incomplete information, assumptions and personal experience — or rather inexperience — of the construction professionals. Design changes were inevitable.

Ronnie Siphika
CEO, Construction Management Foundation