Cape Town – Energy analyst Chris Yelland on Sunday expressed concern over the resignation of Roman Crookes, project director at Medupi power station.
Yelland told Fin24 Crookes’ departure “obviously raises concerns about the institutional memory within Eskom as the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) main contractor”.
“One hopes that there will be a sufficiently experienced team at Eskom and at the Medupi site to ensure continuity and a smooth succession that will not result in any further delays,” he said.
Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said Crookes’ departure is not a major concern for the state power utility as with any other project team there are other managers working very closely on the project and thus know what’s going on.
“There has also been a lot of cross pollination of experience and expertise between the teams at Medupi and Kusile,” which will make a “handover process seamless”, Phasiwe said.
Phasiwe said Crookes is the leader of a team of six managers from which a successor will likely to be named.
“Roman has delivered the first 800 MW Unit into commercial service in August last year and leaves behind a strong and experienced management team who will continue to drive Medupi forward to completion,” said Phasiwe.
Crookes, who has been project director for the Medupi construction project from the beginning, will vacate his post at the end of January.
Crookes is leaving Eskom to pursue other opportunities, according to Phasiwe.
Yelland said the recent announcement on 24 November 2015 by Eskom CEO Brian Molefe of yet a further extension of the commercial operation date (COD) of Medupi Unit 5 to March 2018, and the COD for all 6 units to 2020, was a further signal that all was not going well on this project.
“Roman Crookes must have been under intense pressure.”
Medupi's Unit 6 came into operation four years later than planned, but its 800 MW contribution to the grid has helped brought an end to load shedding which caused immense damage to the economy.
Yelland said it should be noted that the initial COD for all 6 units at Medupi was end 2013. “Several project delays and time over-runs have since extended this to 2020, making the project some 7 years late.”
Crookes told CNB Africa in an interview in February last year that if you look at Medupi as a construction project, “we’ve experienced the entire fleet of technical, commercial, construction and labour related challenges on this project so the delays we’ve seen have been cumulative, over a number of years”.
“Obviously, Unit 6 is the one that we spent most of the time on, learning and developing all the facilities… we then take those lessons, distribute them throughout Medupi, and then do the same for Kusile.
“With the first one being now and the last one in 2019, our schedule shows that Unit 5, which is the second unit, will flow towards the end of next year/early 2017. You’ll then start to see the lessons coming faster and the units between the gaps starting to come down and that’s how we’ll end off, in 2019,” said Crookes.
Phasiwe said Medupi Power Station is set to be completed by 2019/20, and Kusile in 2020/21.
Yelland didn’t want to take a guess at a possible successor for Crookes, but said “I'll be keeping my ears close to the ground”.