HomeIndustry SectorsBusiness and marketsDeveloping SA’s gas potential requires multiple lines of enquiry

Developing SA’s gas potential requires multiple lines of enquiry

Sasol and the Central Energy Fund (CEF) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to jointly accelerate the development of gas solutions in South Africa.

Dr Ismael Poolo, CEF group chief executive said the core of achieving their strategic mandate of ensuring security of supply is domestic job and an approach to the just energy transition that fosters increasing domestic value addition.

“In this regard, gas remains a critical component in our country’s just energy transition journey, and our continued collaboration with Sasol in unlocking growth in the gas space remains critical for us in contributing to the achievement of an optimal energy mix,” said Poolo.

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Priscillah Mabelane, Sasol executive vice president: energy business, said they believe strategic partnerships and collaboration are necessary to shape a sustainable energy sector, as South Africa considers pathways to enable a just energy transition. 

“Sasol has had a long-standing relationship with CEF through our well-established partnership in the Republic of Mozambique Pipeline Company (ROMPCO) pipeline and looks forward to commencing this next stage of growth in gas together,” added Mabelane.
Gas is a significant contributor to South Africa’s energy mix and its importance is expected to grow. Key focus areas will include future supply options, as well as enabling infrastructure critical to sustain and grow the market. Both companies will explore developing multiple low-cost gas import locations around the country. 

Supplementing reserves

“Gas is instrumental in enabling a just energy transition in South Africa and requires immediate attention to introduce additional supply to South Africa. Currently, the country’s gas supply comes from the Pande-Temane gas fields in Mozambique, which will need to be supplemented in the long term, as these reserves begin to mature,” said Mabelane.

Preliminary global benchmark case studies indicate that countries experiencing growth in demand have opted for increasing the number of import locations to serve regional markets via pipeline. A successful example is India, which currently has six liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals in operation, with another four currently under development to become operational by 2023. This approach has significant potential for socio-economic development around these import locations.

Both Sasol and CEF have dedicated resources, overseen by a senior level steering committee, to collaborate in exploring options to develop and expand the Southern African natural gas market.

Exploring uses of gas also includes chemical and conversion technologies

At the same time as exploring the use of LNG, Sasol is also working on developing green chemical technology and CO2 conversion technology.

A team of researchers from the Catalysis Institute at UCT, working with Sasol, are making advancements in the use of commercial iron catalyst. Produced cheaply and at large scale at Sasol’s Secunda Plant, the iron catalyst enables the conversion of unavoidable and biogenically derived CO2 and green hydrogen directly to a variety of green chemicals and jet fuel.

Sasol has been using Fischer-Tropsch (FT) technology to convert low-grade coal and gas into synthetic fuels and chemicals for years. The Secunda Plant converts synthetic gas – a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen – derived from coal gasification and supplemented by reformed natural gas, into 160,000 barrels of products a day.

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Professor Michael Claeys, Catalysis Institute director said Sasol and UCT’s longstanding collaboration on the fundamental aspects of FT technology provides workable solutions for operating plants. “The partnership brings together Sasol’s established expertise around FT catalysis and synthesis gas conversion and UCT’s modelling and in-situ characterisation capabilities.”

The collaboration with UCT has revealed that Sasol’s iron catalyst can achieve CO2 conversions great than 40%, producing ethylene and light olefins, which can be used as chemical feedstocks, and significant quantities of kerosene-range hydrocarbons (jet fuel).

The role of gas in Africa’s energy value chain will be explored at Enlit Africa’s digital event between 26 and 28 October. Register for you front row seat to To LNG or not: is that the question?

Theresa Smith
Theresa Smith is a conference producer for Clarion Events Africa.