With preferred bidders for the gas-to-power projects scheduled to be announced by government at the end of next month, the Southern African Gas Association (Saga) believes that there is a sense of urgency and willingness to adapt to using liquefied natural gas (LNG).
LNG is fast becoming a popular energy source in Southern Africa, where it is 90% cleaner than coal in terms of greenhouse gas, particulate and other emissions, and is a suitable companion to renewable energy, says Saga chairperson Roy Lubbe.
He adds that a further drop in the global price the fuel source has encouraged government to continue with gas-to-power projects.
“According to the Department of Energy, current global gas and LNG market conditions are expected to provide an opportunity for South Africa to achieve an economically beneficial pricing arrangement in the oil and gas cycle,” notes Lubbe.
Government is in favour of floating regasification and storage facilities, owing to the speed at which they can be built.
A floating storage regasification unit (FSRU) is the vital component required in the transiting and transferring of LNG through the oceanic channels. FSRU can be termed as a special type of ship which is used for LNG transfer.
“These FSRUs can quickly be installed offshore – about 1 km from the coast – from a harbour and are safe to use, with minimal land impact. Three harbours have been identified for FSRUs – Richards Bay, Coega and Saldanha,” Lubbe explains.
Moreover, compared with other countries, Lubbe says South Africa has one of the most progressive and up-to-date gas regulation policies. The local energy landscape has the opportunity to, with relative ease, adjust energy demand from traditional electricity grids to gas-fired power generation.
He further mentions that the Gas Act of November 2005, and the Gas Amendment Bill of 2013 (the Gas Bill), which broadens the ambit of activities regulated by the Gas Act, are to primarily consider new technological advancements and transportation technologies such as those integral to LNG use in power generation.
The transport and storage of LNG carries more energy per volume than compressed natural gas (CNG). LNG can be changed into CNG or gasified to natural gas and be put into a pipeline network.
“The Gas Bill mentions that licences are required for the construction of LNG facilities or conversion of existing infrastructure into such facilities, as well as the operation of LNG facilities and trading of LNG,” Lubbe explains.
Moreover, he points out that Saga, in conjunction with other gas industry stakeholders, will be involved in the ongoing development of safety standards for persons working on these gas systems. These standards are developed through the South African Bureau of Standards for the design, construction, commissioning, operation and maintenance of LNG systems from the supply point, to production, transport, processing, storage and consumption.
“Once published, the standards will be communicated to industry stakeholders and included as part of respective training courses.”
He adds that, through this process, Saga is ensuring that qualified and competent individuals are registered with the South African Qualification and Certification Committee for Gas Installers and Gas Practitioners to work on various gas system applications.
“Saga is ensuring continuous knowledge sharing, and is thereby making the path for compliance for industry so much easier through technical and safety forums, as well as the issuing of bulletins and notices.”
Lubbe tells Engineering News that Saga has also established the Safety and Technical Advisory Council (STAC) – which was established on September 20, 2016 – which comprises industry stakeholders assigned to identify and resolve industry concerns, and determine best practices. The STAC will serve in an advisory capacity to Saga.
In accordance with this, the Pressure Equipment Regulations, under the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 2008, state that all manufacturers, importers and suppliers of pressure equipment are required to obtain a permit from an organisation appointed by the Department of Labour – Saga – for the equipment before placing the equipment in the market. Saga informs these parties on conformity and application before granting the permits, he explains.
“Safety and efficiency go hand in hand, although each one has different requirements. A system can be safe but not efficient, which does not make sense from a cost and environmental perspective,” Lubbe concludes.