South African firm supplies mobile power to DRC copper project with zest


The Zest Energy mobile substation in position on site, connected to the SNEL electrical network. The photograph shows preparations for hot commissioning and energising in progress.

The development of the world’s largest high-grade copper deposit – the Kamoa-Kakula Copper Project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – now is running on power from the DRC’s national grid using a mobile substation recently commissioned by South Africa’s Gauteng-based Zest Energy.

 The 120/11 kV mobile substation will serve the construction of the planned initial mine at Kamoa-Kakula, a project whose existing mineral resource has been independently verified as Africa’s largest copper find. Kamoa-Kakula’s principal owners are Ivanhoe Mines, Zijin Mining and the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

 “Due to the high cost of running on diesel generators, the mine developers decided to purchase a mobile substation to interface with the network of the DRC power utility SNEL to provide power during the construction phase of the project,” Alastair Gerrard, managing director at Zest Energy, says.

 Although the substation will not be moved frequently, Gerrard says being mobile allowed for quick and hassle-free construction and commissioning, and gives the mine the added flexibility of deploying the substation to other areas of its operations when needed in the future.

 Zest Energy – part of the Zest WEG Group – undertook the design, manufacture, supply, testing, delivery, installation and commissioning of the complete mobile substation, including the trailer, transformer and related electrical equipment. It also provided a protection system, earthing, site work (with full commissioning and testing) and site training.

 The project began in February 2016, and the unit was commissioned and handed over to the mine developer in October 2016, in line with a challenging delivery deadline of nine months.

 “Our strong network within the WEG Group, of which Zest WEG Group is part, allowed us to work with WEG Transmission and Distribution unit in Brazil on transformer design, manufacturing and factory testing,” Gerrard says. “We also involved WEG Transformers Africa – also a Zest WEG Group company – when it came to site assembly and testing of the mobile transformer.”

 The commissioning process included final assembly of the transformer, oil filtration and purification, and conducting of a full spectrum of transformer tests, as well as on-site testing of all supporting substation equipment. To ensure strict compliance, all commissioning and testing was done in conjunction with SNEL to meet contractual and performance requirements.

 Skills transfer was facilitated by operator training conducted by Zest Energy to all selected mine personnel, ensuring that the substation was left in safe hands, with a strong after-sales service to respond to any further customer requirements.


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