Although Africa is endowed with large amounts of fossil fuels, general safety awareness in the technology and operating fields of the compressed gases industry promoter the Southern Africa Compressed Gases Association (SACGA) states that there is a relatively high demand for compressed natural gas (CNG) in both industrial and commercial markets, owing mainly to supply and cost efficiency.
“CNG is used globally and is seen as a viable alternative to fossil fuels,” explains SACGA.
The association highlights that, in Africa alone, the CNG market is worth billions of dollars, adding that African growth is currently exceeding global expectations, bringing in its wake, an increase in demand for products, fuels and resources.
The association asserts that compressed gases were introduced into European and Asian industries during the 1800s.
“With land exploration, the use of these gases spread into African colonies. Once gases were produced in modest quantities, the process of industrialisation spurred on innovation and invention of technology to produce larger quantities of CNG,” details SACGA.
The association points out that Egypt, Africa’s second biggest economy, is listed as the top user of CNG in Africa, with Nigeria, its top economy, and Benin following.
SACGA states that, over the last five years, the Southern African CNG market has grown at a fast pace, adding that it is envisioned that the size of this market will supersede those northern African countries.
SACGA outlines that there are three main groups of compressed gases – liquefied, nonliquefied and dissolved gas.
While the demand in growth is welcomed, a concern raised by SACGA is the lack of safety and safe handling practices, particularly by new installers. “Each group has health and safety regulations that ensure world-class preparation and prevention in handling these gases. It is vital that new installers are aware of the certification and training requirements,” says SACGA.
Safety and Time Versus Costs
According to the association, skimping on safety and time are the two main no-go areas when it comes to handling CNG. SACGA explains that each installer needs to be a registered South African Qualification and Certification Committee (SAQCC) gas practitioner and, in turn, the installation company must be registered with SACGA.
“The local market is competitive, but also well regulated. Suppliers will not supply CNG unless the installation meets the required South African National Standards safety and installation standards,” says SACGA.
The association notes that the CNG market is seen as a lucrative space and time and cost are often overlooked, with developers seeking quick, cheap installations.
Registration is required by law, any installation or changes to existing installation not covered by a registered company and practitioner will lead to prosecution by authorities, concludes SACGA.