State-owned freight logistics group Transnet took delivery on Wednesday of its new multiproduct pipeline (NMPP), which runs between the coastal city of Durban and Jameson Park, near Heidelberg, south of Johannesburg. The pipeline, which would ramp up to full capacity over the coming 18 months, is currently handling the delivery of diesel fuel to South Africa’s economic heartland of Gauteng.
The NMPP, which has been designed to handle various transport fuels, would eventually replace the aged Durban-to-Johannesburg pipeline, which was completed in 1965 and was nearing the end of its economically usable life.
The 555-km, 24-inch NMPP would initially work in conjunction with the old pipeline, until Terminal 1 at Island View, in Durban, and Terminal 2 at Jameson Park were fully completed in 2013.
The first product began flowing into the Gauteng fuel pipeline network, which connects at Jameson Park, when Transnet group CEO Brian Molefe opened a valve on the NMPP.
The Gauteng fuel pipeline network had also been upgraded in conjunction with the construction of the trunk line. This secondary network comprises a 16-inch pipeline network, linking Gauteng fuel depots between Kendal and Waltloo, Jameson Park and Alrode and Alrode and Langlaagte.
“We have completed one of the most cutting-edge and innovative infrastructure investments in the world. Transnet is today fulfilling two commitments, by ensuring that the inland market demand for fuel is met, and to ease road congestion by reducing the number of fuel tankers on our roads,” Molefe said.
However, Molefe also indicated that the pipeline’s price tag of R23.4-billion would now need to be recovered. In addition to last year’s pipeline tariff increase 59.9% Transnet had already applied to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa for a further 22% increase.
The state-of-the-art pipeline would transport refined fuel products such as unleaded 93 and 95 octane petrol, low sulphur and ultralow sulphur diesel and jet fuel at a rate of about three-million litres an hour. The capacity of the line would be 26.7-billion litres of fuel a year.
Currently the pipeline uses three pumping stations, namely Tweni in Durban, Hilltop near Pietermaritzburg and Mnambithi pump station near Ladysmith. Two metering stations are also included.
Transnet pipelines CEO Charl Möller pointed out that the project had been designed with expansion in mind.
“The pipeline would be upgraded in five phases up to 2032 with the addition of more pumping stations and metering stations along the trunk line. In this way we would be able to expand the pipeline capacity by up to 200%, to keep up with the expected demand growth,” he said.
He added that although the pipeline could currently only operate at half of its Phase 1 desing capacity, owing to the storage terminal at Jameson Park not being finished, and could also only carry a single product, the pipeline would come into its own once the terminals came on line.
The completed pipeline, as well as the two terminals under construction, had been designated as national key points, which would help ensure fuel supply security. The NMPP would also be able to provide fuel product for three days, should there be a supply interruption.
The pipeline was expected to be economically active for the next 80 years and provide permanent jobs for at least 110 people.
The project used a groundbreaking technology to prime the completed empty pipe, using nitrogen to counter backpressure encountered on the steep downgrades where the pipeline comes down Van Reenen’s pass on the escarpment. It was also dried at -20 ˚C, to ensure that no water or other liquids remained in the pipe that could lead to contamination.
Further, the pipeline, which is constructed form the highest available grade steel, was laid in 1.5-deep trenches along most of its route, except where it had to cross other existing infrastructure and rivers, as well as a number of large ecologically sensitive wetlands.