Sasol granted permission to use load-based limit to regulate SO2 emissions from Secunda boilers

8th April 2024 By: Terence Creamer - Creamer Media Editor

Sasol granted permission to use load-based limit to regulate SO2 emissions from Secunda boilers

Secunda complex
Photo by: Creamer Media

Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Minister Barbara Creecy has granted Sasol South Africa permission to employ a load-based limit to regulate the sulphur dioxide (SO2) of its Secunda boilers in a decision upholding the JSE-listed group’s appeal of an earlier National Air Quality Officer (NAQO) determination stipulating the use of a concentration-based limit.

Sasol lodged an appeal on July 31, 2023, after NAQO published a determination on July 11, 2023, stating that it was not empowered to grant permission to Sasol to apply an alternative limit for SO2 after a once-off postponement had already been granted to the Secunda operations.

The 17 Secunda boilers are currently operating on the basis of a ten-year postponement, until March  31, 2025, in the meeting of new plant standards for SO2 emissions, which was granted on February 23, 2015.

Sasol requested that it be allowed to reduce its SO2 emissions by reducing the total number of boilers in use at Secunda and thus the load, rather than by reducing the concentration of SO2 produced by each  boiler.

NAQO argued that the load-based limit did not comply with the concentration-based limits prescribed in the Minimum Emission Standards (MES) and could, thus, not be considered.

Sasol stated in its appeal that the Minister was empowered to consider a fresh 12A application under the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act.

The group argued in its appeal that this approach would result in an improvement of ambient air quality within the local airshed over and above MES compliance, while ensuring that its operations continued. It said a refusal would result in it winding down the Secunda Operations.

On April 5, the Minister upheld Sasol’s appeal and set aside the decision of the NAQO.

In a statement, Sasol said the Minister concluded that its application met all the requirements of Clause 12A, and replaced the NAQO’s decision by permitting that a load-based limit of 503 t/d of SO2 be applied from April 1, 2025, up to March 31, 2030.

“We will engage with the Minister to finalise the regulatory requirements for the decision to take full effect, following which our atmospheric emission license will have to be varied accordingly,” the company added.

Just Share, which opposed Sasol’s appeal, said the upholding of Sasol’s appeal would result in emissions significantly above those permitted by the MES, which the organisation said were already weaker than comparative standards around the world.

“This decision means that the government has permitted a private company to set its own pollution limits, making a mockery of pollution laws and constitutional rights, and of any claim by the government to take public health seriously,” Just Share added.

Creecy noted that those dissatisfied with the decision had the right to apply to a competent court within 180 days to have the decision judicially reviewed.