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HIMOINSA Southern Africa provides 8 MW rental solution for LNG, helium plant in South Africa’s Free State

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HIMOINSA Southern Africa provides 8 MW rental solution for LNG, helium plant in South Africa’s Free State

24th November 2022


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In order to commission the process plant and supporting utilities, emerging natural gas and helium producer Renergen’s Virginia gas project, in South Africa’s Free State province, requires an immense amount of power to run, as extraction, cooling, compression and liquefying on-site is an energy-intensive process.

A grid-connection to State-owned Eskom was not available in the construction and commissioning phase of Renergen’s Virginia gas project, and a temporary and prime power solution was necessary to ensure the timely commissioning of Phase 1 of the project.

Generator manufacturer HIMOINSA Southern Africa, which won Renergen subsidiary Tetra4’s tender process in 2021, was able to assist, and was supplying the project with an eight-month 8 MW rental contract, under which they are providing a competitive, flexible turnkey power solution.

The HIMOINSA team supplied, installed and commissioned a fully functioning power plant within three weeks of the site being ready, and, owing to its maintaining a well-stocked fleet of rental units locally, HIMOINSA Southern Africa was able to offer flexibility with contract timelines.

Eight fully synchronised generator sets, neutral earth transformers, fuel tanks and a control room were installed to run the site at 8 MW prime capability, compliant with all health and safety requirements. A 200 kVA unit was also provided for temporary use during the construction phase.

As the massive compressors used for the manufacturing process have large step-loads, it was vital to ensure these did not cause power tripping which would interrupt production capability. The 8 MW, 11 kV solution ensured sufficient power redundancy.

The units were installed and provisioned on-site early to ensure that there were no production delays owing to a lack of power, and extensions to the original contract term were also accommodated when utility power was delayed, says HIMOINSA Southern Africa business development director Matt Bell, who adds that this meant that there were no disruptions to the commissioning timelines that Renergen committed to their stakeholders.

In addition to this, HIMOINSA provided a fully bespoke service, which included fuel tanks and fuel piping in the construction phase, as well as 24/7 data monitoring, as per the HIMOINSA preventive maintenance protocol, Bell notes.

In strict adherence to health and safety protocols, three HIMOINSA technicians lived on site operating on eight-hour rotational shifts.

HIMOINSA is confident of backing up its fuel efficiency claims, as Bell explains that the company ensures and enables an integrated approach when assisting a customer, like Renergen, so that fuel consumption, fuel efficiency and cost savings are addressed.

The solution HIMOINSA provided was cost competitive and met Renergen’s operational and fiscal requirements. HIMOINSA Southern Africa devised a two-tier bespoke tariff which comprised a fixed capacity charge for the sunken costs on-site, as well as a variable running charge for every kWh that the plant generated.

This meant that Renergen was able to have generators on site and commissioned in advance of the plant becoming operational, at a low fixed monthly charge. Renergen did not need to pay a fixed electricity charge during this time either, as the company had the benefit of paying only for energy that they required and was generated.

The biggest cost of the early energy solution for Renergen was the diesel consumption used during power generation.

HIMOINSA supplied its generators with Yanmar and MTU engines which have best-in-class fuel efficiency ratings - a claim HIMOINSA Southern Africa was happy to back up with financial performance liabilities if they did not successfully achieve the fuel efficiency rates committed to.

By incorporating penalties if fuel efficiency levels were not met and paying only for energy that was needed and fixing the capacity charge, Renergen could continue to run its plant at a pre-determined cost.

The Yanmar engine is manufactured in HIMOINSA’s Japanese facility and is well-known for its technology and easy construction features. From here, it is transferred to Spain, where it is assembled with HIMOINSA’s container, alternator and control panel, HIMOINSA global Europe, Middle East and Africa region head Guillermo Elum says.

Aftermarket support is provided through local divisions, he adds.

The plant ran efficiently on a fully turnkey solution, including the necessary manpower and operational planning requirements for the contract term, and beyond, until the utility connection was successfully installed, and the temporary power plant decommissioned.

Elum says the company can provide services and products to this extent owing to its local manufacturing capabilities, which are maintained through local original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in the countries in which they operate.

The South African extension of HIMOINSA was established in 2000, he says, and is headquartered in Gqeberha (previously Port Elizabeth). There are also offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town, which Elum says provides the company with an opportunity to approach the sector with its well-positioned technical team, as the local engineers can quickly and aptly design complete solutions for customers.

The products and solutions are manufactured according to European quality standards, he adds, noting that adjustments are, however, made according to each country’s local legislative requirements.

Overall, HIMOINSA has eight factories around the world, which Bell adds allows the company to de-risk some supply chain challenges, but also ensures quality standards across all the equipment imported into South Africa.

“We manufacture a quality product, are a quality partner and we work extremely closely with the engineering team in Spain to deliver bespoke solutions for our customers,” he elaborates.

HIMOINSA’s subsidiary network comprising 13 subsidiaries globally, with 1 of them based in Eastern and Southern Africa. HIMOINSA Southern Africa, established in 2016, services clients across Southern and East Africa.

Partnering First-of-a-Kind Project

The Virginia gas project, which will produce liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquid helium, is sub-Saharan Africa’s first helium facility, making South Africa one of only eight countries globally to produce and export liquid helium.

The project is also South Africa’s first onshore commercial LNG operation.

Helium, of which there is currently a global shortage, is required to manufacture semi-conductors and fibre-optic cabling as well as providing deep cryogenic cooling for the superconducting magnets that are critical components in magnetic resonance imaging, better known as MRI. It also serves as the only propellant for rocket fuel, which enables space travel.

LNG, on the other hand, is a versatile liquid fuel and can be used in industrial heating, as a transport substitute to diesel and petrol, as well as in power generation to complement renewable wind and solar power by providing stable baseload or peaking power.

Commenting on the economic growth potential, Renergen COO Nick Mitchell says that the project consists of multiple facets, with Phase 1 “a relatively small project” that will mean that South Africa will no longer need to import helium and indeed will become a net exporter of helium when the Phase 1 facility operates at full nameplate capacity. Phase 1 intends to cultivate 350 kg of helium and 50 t of LNG.

Meanwhile, Phase 2 aims to produce between four and five tonnes a day of helium and an estimated 700 t/d of LNG.

Phase 1 alone will saturate South Africa’s estimated daily helium consumption of 220 kg, and the balance will be exported, Mitchell says, noting that industrial gases company Linde has secured the majority of the helium from Phase 1. LNG, meanwhile, will provide an alternative to local use of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and diesel, of which South Africa is typically an importer and all LNG will be dedicated to domestic consumption.

This, Mitchell says, will see the Virginia gas project, in time, leading to a reduction in the importation of fuels, improving the fiscus and assisting South Africa in achieving its Just Transition and carbon dioxide (CO2) emission reduction targets.

“Our proven 2P reserves are about 407-billion cubic feet, or the equivalent of 11.2-trillion litres of diesel – this is a formidable amount of energy to be available in the short to medium term when our country requires it the most,” Mitchell comments.

The project has a production right licence valid until 2042 and it may be renewed for a further 30-year period.

A plant of this potential and scale requires a large amount of power to run and owing to the sensitive and highly calibrated equipment, the supply must be stable and uninterrupted,

It is for this reason, Mitchell explains, the company wanted to mitigate against this risk and ensure that its equipment is preserved, while simultaneously avoiding any processing delays.

“The impact of delays are always significant, and it can interrupt the commissioning phase, which wouldn't be ideal. That's why we partnered with the team at HIMOINSA to make sure that we're completely insulated from the potential disruption,” Mitchell says.

“HIMOINSA’s team delivered in July 2021. They have been waiting in anticipation for us to begin the various commissioning processes around certain elements of the plant. Since their installation, we've had confidence knowing that our process won't be interrupted because of this decision.”

Mitchell maintains that the project’s competitive edge is attributed to the dynamic team of employees and contractors now working at the Virginia gas project, adding that owing to this team, the project was able to “navigate very difficult times and challenges” over its nine years of development.

“We're not the easiest customers to work with, and sometimes we can be quite demanding. But I think one of the key areas of the relationship here is the open, honest, transparent way in which both parties communicated,” Mitchell enthuses.

“They are extremely customer-focused and have been very attentive to our rapidly changing needs, ensuring the Virginia gas project was always prioritised.”

Commenting on HIMOINSA’s involvement in the project, HIMOINSA MD Martin Foster says despite some challenges and unexpected delays during the initial stages of mobilisation, HIMOINSA was able to move within the requirements, assist and provide local knowledge and expertise.

“From there, the relationship grew from strength to strength.”

The flagship Virginia gas project, he enthuses, has the potential to open opportunities for gas-to-power across different industries.

“There are multiple facets to that, such as the current energy constraints in the country that are not going to be solved overnight. A lot of big industries are also looking at alternative sources of energy, some of them looking at going off grid completely, and that's where we can play in the space, either through purely gas-to-power or through hybrid offerings using some of our renewable partners and battery storage,” Foster elaborates.

He adds that other opportunities could include taking a project completely off-the-grid or, depending on the availability of gas, and combined with heat recovery systems, for example, bringing the cost of energy down to a very competitive number, which is something that is not available locally using the traditional sources of LPG or diesel.

The project has, therefore, “opened up a whole new market sector for HIMOINSA”.

Looking ahead, Renergen will be focusing on ramping up operations over the coming months to full Phase 1 capacity of 2 700 GJ/d of LNG and 350 kg/d of helium. Phase 1 has involved an investment of $60-million and the helium and LNG to be produced will be supplied to customers in South Africa, including Consol and Italtile.

The company is also progressing with the far larger Phase 2, which will involve an investment of about $1-billion, to produce between 4.2 t/d and 5 t/d of helium, and 32 800 GJ/d of LNG, including the supply of LNG to a potential 350 MW gas-to-power peaking plant.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter




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