Mar 28, 2008
Sasol weighs up more power generation schemes, but says it must prioritise fuel securityBack
© Reuse this
The JSE-listed group currently produces some 30% of the electricity it requires to produce liquid fuels and chemicals at production sites in the Mpumalanga and Free State provinces, and has even, at points, supplied electricity into the national grid, while power utility Eskom has engaged in load shedding as a result of supply-side constraints.
South African energy cluster head Dr Benny Mokaba says that, in addition to the Sasol board having approved funds for the installation of gas turbines at Secunda, the group is seriously investigating various other efficiency and generation options.
He declines to be drawn on precise figures, saying that assessments are still under way, but he has suggested to Engineering News previously that these efforts could yield upwards of 600 MW of own-generation and cogeneration capacity.
It is understood that the company will be submitting a bid for Eskom's ‘Pilot National Cogeneration Programme', tenders for which close at the end of May. It could also bid for the utility's so-called medium-term cogeneration tender, issued in February, where generation projects of between 5 MW and 1 000 MW, up to a combined capacity of 3 000 MW, will be assessed.
ELECTRICITY FROM GAS
The new gas turbines will be fuelled by natural gas from Mozambique, with Sasol and its partners having recently announced the construction of a R1,1-billion gas-compression station to facilitate a 20% expansion of natural gas delivery from Mozambique to South Africa by the end of 2009.
The gas-compression station will be based at Komatipoort in South Africa and will increase gas delivery capacity from the current 120-million gigajoules a year to about 147-million gigajoules a year. Construction will begin by mid 2008.
The additional gas will be used primarily as part of the first phase of a planned 20% expansion of the company's synfuel capacity at Secunda over the next eight years. But some of the additional gas is earmarked for the electricity generators.
CEO Pat Davies tells Engineering News that Sasol believes it can play an important role in dealing with the electricity crisis. But he stresses that the company's primary goal is to ensure reliable inland supply of liquid fuels, such as petrol, diesel and jet fuel, the supply of which is also tight. In fact, some company officials are particularly worried about diesel supplies, particularly if more affluent South Africans living in the hinterland purchase diesel generators for their homes and businesses, which could divert supply from transport to stationary applications.
"We have access to coal, we convert coal, we generate a third of our own electricity at the moment, we have access to natural-gas feedstock, and there are synergies between Eskom and ourselves. And we are looking for additional generation capacity," Davies explains.
SECUNDA AND MAFUTHA
This said, the growth in demand for liquid fuels will continue to make the electricity-versus-fuels equation challenging for the group.
Davies believes fuel supply will remain "reasonably tight" until new pipelines are built to transport fuel from the coast to the hinterland. There is also still haggling between State freight logistics group Transnet and the National Energy Regulator of South Africa, which is delaying the construction of the new multiproduct pipeline from KwaZulu-Natal to Gauteng.
"We are doing what we can to improve our production rates inland to compensate for that," Davies adds.
A key project in this regard is Sasol's plan to increase synfuel capacity at Secunda by 20% from the 155 000 bl/d production levels achieved in 2004. This would be done in phases, with some 15% of the additional capacity to be based on natural gas and the balance on coal.
Mokaba explains that, of the 15%, the Sasol board has approved enough money for the first 4%. The additional 11% is still in the feasibility stage, while the remaining 5%, possibly based on fine-coal technology, is still at the conceptual stage.
Further, Sasol has approved over R300-million to complete the feasibility investigations for the so-called Project Mafutha, which could involve the construction of an 80 000 bbl/d-plus coal-to-liquids facility in either the Free State or the Waterberg.
"The market is growing for liquid fuels so we need to fill that space by [installing] additional capacity. [We will do so] by using the same technology in Secunda and expanding that by 20%, and then with Mafutha adding about 80 000 bbl/d, at least, into that equation using the latest version of our coal-to-liquids technology," Davies explains.
Mokaba is also sanguine about the group's ability to achieve the Secunda expansion aspiration despite suggestions of water shortages, which could constrain the plant's production capacity.
There have been reports that the current scheme to augment water supply to the power stations and the synfuel complex in Mpumalanga is simply insufficient to cope with the higher load factors out of Eskom's plant, as well as the proposed Eskom and Sasol expansions.
However, Mokaba describes these reports as "alarmist". "It is true that South Africa is a water-restricted country. Therefore, every industry is looking at ways to save water. For instance, we are recycling our water four times in Secunda," Mokaba explains, adding that technological interventions, together with ongoing dialogue with the water authorities, should result in an "optimal way of dealing with any potential water shortage".
"We have seen the reports that the pipeline is not sufficient, but we will make a plan and find suitable technical and efficiency solutions," he adds, noting that it is also interrogating dry-cooling systems for both its new plant and the planned expansions.
Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor
Other Electricity News
While there are battery-powered bolting solutions for wind turbine maintenance, the general consensus among wind energy industry stakeholders is that these solutions lack battery longevity and often succumb to overheating and bending, says bolting systems...
While wind turbines are standard products that are designed, verified by prototype testing and independently certified, their foundations are designed on a project-by-project basis to suit site-specific ground conditions. This, according to engineering consulting...
Recent Research Reports
Water 2015: A review of South Africa's water sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Water 2015 Report considers the aforementioned issues, not only in the South African context but also in the African and global context in terms of supply and demand, water stress and insecurity, and access to water and sanitation, besides others.
Input Sector Review: Pumps 2015 (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s 2015 Input Sector Review on Pumps provides an overview of South Africa’s pumps industry with particular focus on pump manufacture and supply, aftermarket services, marketing strategies, local and export demand, imports, sector support, investment...
Liquid Fuels 2015: A review of South Africa's liquid fuels sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Liquid Fuels 2015 Report examines these issues in the context of South Africa’s business environment; oil and gas exploration; fuel pricing; the development of the country’s biofuels industry; the logistics of transporting liquid fuels; and...
Road and Rail 2015: A review of South Africa's road and rail sectors (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Road and Rail 2015 report examines South Africa’s road and rail transport system, with particular focus on the size and state of the country’s road and rail infrastructure and network, the funding and maintenance of these respective networks, and...
Defence 2015: A review of South Africa's defence sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Coal 2015 report examines South Africa’s coal industry with regards to the business environment, the key participants in the sector, local demand, export sales and coal logistics, projects being undertaken by the large and smaller participants in the...
Real Economy Year Book 2015 (PDF Report)
There are very few beacons of hope on South Africa’s economic horizon. Economic growth is weak, unemployment is rising, electricity supply is insufficient to meet demand and/or spur growth, with poor prospects for many of the commodities mined and exported. However,...
This Week's Magazine
The BMW Group will invest R6-billion at BMW Group South Africa’s (BMW SA’s) Rosslyn plant to produce the next-generation X3 sports-activity vehicle (SAV) for the local and export markets. Rosslyn will continue production of the current 3 Series through its lifecycle,...
The lack of consequences for poor performance and transgressions on the part of contractors remains a significant hurdle to tackling South Africa’s service delivery challenges, delegates heard at the Consulting Engineers South Africa Infrastructure Indaba, on...
City of Ekurhuleni executive mayor Mondli Gungubele earlier this month officially named the city’s bus rapid transit (BRT) system, Harambee.
About 58% of unstructured data stored by companies is dark data, which means that the value or regulatory importance of the data has not been determined. Subsequently, most of the stored data add costs, rather than increasing revenue or reduce regulatory risks, says...
Effective logistics, import/export and manufacturing consulting services require detailed industry knowledge and experience, but can add significant value to these industries by providing expert advice on various technical elements in their value chains, says...