Energy Minister Jeff Radebe has promised greater alignment between South Africa’s energy plans, including the new Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for electricity, with a regional gas master plan, which is currently under development within the 16-country Southern African Development Community (SADC) bloc.
In an interview with Engineering News Online on the sidelines of a SADC Ministerial Workshop on regional gas infrastructure and market development in Johannesburg, Radebe said it was crucial for South Africa’s national plans to be reflected in the regional plan.
The expanded integration of natural gas into Southern Africa’s energy mix, as well as its industrial and petrochemicals sectors was strongly endorsed at the thirty-seventh summit of the SADC Heads of State and government, which took place in South Africa in August last year. By the next summit, which is scheduled for Windhoek, Namibia, this August, a report must be produced outlining SADC’s approach to the development of regional gas resources.
SADC deputy executive secretary Dr Thembinkosi Mhlongo reported on Tuesday that technical committees had already met to define the terms of reference for an inter-State gas committee, which would oversee the development the master plan.
Radebe anticipated a phased integration of the plans given that South Africa’s updated IRP was due for release imminently and with work well advanced on the country’s gas and liquid fuels master plans.
The Minister would present the draft IRP to Cabinet in the “next week or so”, after which it would be released for public comment. He reiterated that the final IRP, which would guide future power generation investments, would be finalised by mid-August.
The plan would include gas-to-power projects, which Radebe said could complement South Africa’s variable renewable-energy plants. The country’s much anticipated gas-to-power procurement programme would proceed once Cabinet had approved both the IRP and the gas master plan. The IRP would be approved first, but Radebe said the gas master plan would follow “shortly thereafter”.
In the medium-term, South Africa would also include cross-border gas and gas-to-power into its various energy plans, with bilateral talks already under way on the prospects for a gas pipeline from the gas-rich Rovuma basin in northern Mozambique to South Africa. The US Energy Information Administration estimates Mozambique’s gas resource to be around 100-trillion cubic feet (tcf).
However, Radebe stresses that gas-to-power should be but one component of the regional gas master plan, which will also outline a vision for the use of natural gas in transportation, industrial and domestic heating, as well as in the production of petrochemicals and fertilisers.
“This enormous opportunity can only be realised if the region develops the requisite gas processing, transportation and distribution infrastructure to supply the regional market so that SADC will not only limit itself to being a gas exporter.”
Nepad Business Foundation project manager for gas John Rocha told delegates, among whom were Ministers and Deputy Ministers from Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Mozambique and Namibia, that policy coordination and alignment would be critical to unlocking the opportunities associated with Africa’s natural gas resources, which were estimated at more than 600 tcf.
It would also be critical for projects to be facilitated downstream of the exploration and production sector, which had become increasingly vibrant. In fact, it was expected that, between 2018 and 2025, up to $413-billion would be invested in 93 oil and gas projects.
Quoting from Frost & Sullivan research, Rocha argued that $212-billion-worth of investment would be required into pipelines, gas plants and gas-to-power projects until 2025 in order for gas to become a more integral part of sub-Saharan Africa’s energy mix.