Day 29: Remember the Days of the 330 Engine Room

This blog has nothing to do with 330 at all. It just seemed a good title! This week was spent in this little part of the power station called the Boiler. And by little, I mean huge. It’s probably the most complex bit of the station and it does not resemble a kettle! It’s like a never-ending maze of pipes going in and out of the metal housings and walls and feeding the turbine with the special steam that is needed to make power for us in South Africa. I’ve always found it quite funny that we still use Steam for the most important aspect of Power Generation seeing that it’s a technology thought about in the 1700s. However, those English guys who pioneered it back then would be in awe of what they see in today’s modern steam powered power plants.

Anyway, this blog my first picture blog of this course so I will try and keep the words to a minimum from here on in. The pictures, well, technically, we aren’t allowed to take pictures of the inside of a Power Station but well, as you will see, most aren’t actually from inside!

So this is the drive on the way to Duvha Power Station pre-7am. Power Stations start work at 7am and, so to maximise our experience, we did the same. Waking up at that ungodly hour is really taxing! The crap thing is that after you do this for weeks on end, you get used to it and end up waking at that time on weekends as well! Disturbing I tell you…

The sheer size of the components inside the plant was something that just wowed me. This is the Hot Reheat Piping that takes the reheated water from the superheater to the IP turbine blades. In English, heat from here is transferred to the turbine blades which turns and makes electricity. You can see the guard rails around if you are worried about scale.

These are ducts for the fans that provide air to the system. The air is usually used to transfer the pulverised coal into the furnace for combustion. I think you could even transport Kanye West’s ego using these ducts.

The thing with a Power Plant is that it is so huge that basically, you could have a waterfall that’s around five metres high in the middle of the auxiliary plant and its okay. It does give you a shock when you see it, but it is okay!

Anyway, the highlight of the week was going onto the roof of the plant and seeing the magnificent view. The roof is around 110m above ground level and apart from being very scary, it is awe-inspiring. This is a picture with the Northern Cooling Tower in the foreground and the Witbank Dam in the background. At the bottom is the HV yard. If you need to braai some meat really quickly, I suggest you throw the meat in there. Anyway, the next couple pictures were also taken on top of the roof. Enjoy them!

The little structure that’s been pointed to is the 250m or so tall Smoke stack at Duvha which, if I’m not mistaken is probably the country’s tallest structure at present. Power Plants nowadays have either precipitators or fabric filters which get rid of the gunk before it’s expelled into the atmosphere. These include the NOx and SOx gases (pretty catchy names!) though when the Boilers are being lit, they tend to burn quite dirtily so these are expelled into the atmosphere. The theory behind the height is that the higher the tower, the less chance of the air infiltrating the air we breathe. Well, go to Witbank and take a deep breath in and you can judge for yourself. Then again, from what I’ve seen, the amount Power Stations lets out into the clear blue sky is miniscule compared to some factories in Witbank. I saw this one factory with brown smoke coming out from the roof – not even the stack! Oh well, so much for a small carbon footprint. Anyway, the rest of these pictures are just general pictures I took out. Yet again, enjoy!

Professional Write does indeed suck. They don’t even have a WYSIWIG interface. Come to think of it, neither did WordPerfect back in the 90s.

I don’t know. Do not even ask!

I thought this was a Coal Plant. I apparently was wrong…

Beautiful 🙂

There is something about narrow corridors that has this oh so powerful effect. If you look at the doorway at the end of the picture, it looks like someone is emerging from the fiery pits of hell!

Apparently, Witbank was the actual setting for the Blair Witch Project.

Dusty Duvha – the one thing about this plant is the immense ash deposits EVERYWHERE! The furnace and precipitators have these opening everywhere which makes the ash from the coal get all over the place. On the 87m platform, the ash deposits on the pipes were around 5cm high. Approximate that using your fingers and you’ll realise that it is quite a lot! Even worse is that the ash is supremely fine and breathing it in is bad for your health. I was like a kid and made sure that I got as dirty as I could! Hey, it was fun okay!!! But anyway, there is my hand, hair and my hard hat. They don’t really tell the story though but you get the picture I hope. Well that was my first foray into the world of Duvha and it was rather enjoyable even though I was covered in ash! Ash Ketchum – he’s my hero!