15 July 2013 – Sasol recently inaugurated what is the largest gas engine power fired plant in South Africa, at its Sasolburg site. The facility, which comprises 18 Wärtsilä 34SG engines, each with a nominal output of just under 10 MW, has a guaranteed maximum capacity of 155 MW, and a given capacity of 140 MW.

The 140 MW is supplied to Sasol’s own generation uses, but the facility, which has an N+2 redundancy design, has been able to keep all its engines generating power at certain times to help South Africa through a power constrained winter. The plant has thus been able to generate 175 MW at certain times, though this is only possible as it is new and when the maintenance schedule allows for it.

The electricity from the facility, which was commissioned in December 2012, is a welcome addition to South Africa’s grid. “This plant is a significant milestone for Sasol, as we begin to ease our load on the national grid and contribute to our own energy efficiency targets. We are proud of this new facility and it demonstrates how we can add versatility to natural gas,” Sasol’s senior group executive, international energy, new business development and technology, Lean Strauss says.

The project will enable Sasol to reduce its CO2 emissions by a million tonnes per year. This project has allowed Sasol to achieve its target of reaching 60% self-generated power capacity in 2013, easing its reliance on the national grid. It has helped lower power demand in South Africa from national electricity utility Eskom in spite of on-going growth (albeit slow growth) in the country’s economy.

This project was completed three months ahead of schedule and almost 20% below  budget, while 500 jobs were created during construction and 44 permanent jobs created in Sasolburg. “This is a very successful project for Sasol New Energy, below budget and ahead of schedule. Indeed an excellent result from Wärtsilä, Foster Wheeler, Sasol Technology and all other contractors,” Henri Loubser, managing director, Sasol New Energy, says.

Gas powered plants require less time to build and install, taking between 20 to 30 months, opposed to the 40 to 50 months required for a coal power plant and 60 to 80 months for a nuclear plant.

Sasol and its Mozambican partner, the country’s state-owned power utility, Electricidade de Moçambique, approved investment in a similar power generation facility in Ressano Garcia, Mozambique. The project aims to start electricity generation in the second quarter of calendar year 2014.

The main supply of natural gas for the plant comes from the Central Processing Facility at Temane in Mozambique, which is part of a petroleum production agreement signed between Sasol, ENH, Companhia Moçambicana de Hidrocarbonetos S.A. (CMH) and the international finance corporation (IFC).