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Sustainability spurs new trends in chemicals industry

11th August 2023

By: Sabrina Jardim

Creamer Media Online Writer

     

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With a strong focus on sustainability, a growing trend of fuel switches, opportunities for cogeneration and using by-product streams has emerged in the chemicals industry, says boiler and energy plant operations and maintenance service provider Associated Energy Services (AES) commercial director Dennis Williams.

Despite challenges pertaining to accessing suitable, alternative lower carbon fuel sources, and the lower efficiencies for power generation of small-scale industrial power generation, he posits that accessing lower carbon fuel sources in South Africa is possible, provided that the requirement is to mitigate risk and create self-reliance.

This is demonstrated by AES operating a biomass power station with a 6 MWe capacity for almost a decade.

“We understand what is needed to integrate process thermal needs and turbine power generation, and we have also executed several technical solution formulations in this space,” says Williams.

This year, the company has secured an operations and maintenance partnership with a chemical manufacturer, in Gauteng, for steam plant operations and project execution.

A major part of the project involved the execution of an installation project for four new boilers procured by the client, who required support to integrate them with the current process plant.

AES has recently completed this installation in June 2023 and operates the plant on a fully outsourced basis, together with the main baseload boiler at the facility that has a total steam generation capacity of about 50 t/h.

The company has also been engaging with the client about opportunities to change its approach to steam generation, with specific focus on risk mitigation and cost management.

While AES aims to encourage growth in the chemicals sector through the application of its thermal energy expertise, Williams notes that several economic sectors are under “severe pressure” regarding low-cost foreign competition.

As a result, he believes that competitiveness of local manufacturing needs to be retained and expanded.

“Once these manufacturing footholds are lost in South Africa, it will be incredibly difficult to recover and stave off imports, especially from places where government subsidies are enabling very low pricing of production, with a focus on gaining access to export markets for their producers.”

He concludes that AES, therefore, plans to draw on its expertise to support local chemical manufacturing companies, and assist with the retention of the jobs and other benefits associated with value addition to resources used as feedstock in the chemical sector.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor

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