One of Sasol’s
South African plants
 
Johannesburg, South Africa — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 20 December 2010 – Sasol Limited “’ the world’s largest maker of motor fuels from coal “’ will pay US$1.04 billion (R7 billion) for a stake in Talisman Energy Incorporated’s Canadian shale-gas assets, and may build a motor-fuels plant in the country.

“The two companies have agreed to study the economic viability of a facility in western Canada to convert natural gas-to-liquid fuels,” Sasol said in a statement here. “This could provide a strategic alternative to traditional North American pipeline or liquefied natural gas marketing,” the statement added.

Sasol uses its Fischer-Tropsch technology to transform gas from below the ocean floor and coal into liquid fuels such as petrol and diesel in South Africa and Qatar. Rising prices and advances in extracting shale gas have spurred the company’s interest in building plants to convert the gas.

“The transaction appears to be well thought through,” Abri du Plessis, chief investment officer at Cape Town-based Gryphon Asset Management Limited, said by phone. “The market has been waiting for a catalyst to move the price of Sasol.”

The deal will give the South African company 50% of Talisman’s Farrell Creek operations in the Montney Shale basin in northeastern British Columbia. “The 51.6-acre site holds an estimated 9.6 trillion cubic feet of shale gas,” Sasol said.

Sasol “’ which built the world’s first commercial gas-to-liquids plant in Qatar “’ is studying shale gas in South Africa’s Karoo region with Chesapeake Energy Corporation and Statoil ASA. Exxon Mobil Corporation, Mitsubishi Corporation, Reliance Industries Limited. and Sumitomo Corporation are also expanding into shale gas, as conventional energy reserves shrink. Fuel from natural gas is cleaner than that made from oil, allowing producers to charge higher prices.

New technology has made shale gas economically viable and allowed countries to cut their dependence on imported liquefied natural gas. U.S. shale-gas output has risen to about a 10th of its total gas supplies, from 2% in 1990.

Sasol will pay US$259.3 million (R1.8 billion) in cash for the transaction, and will fund 75% of Talisman’s portion of costs to develop Farrell Creek until the total purchase price is paid, it said.

Sasol and Talisman will cooperate on other, unspecified gas opportunities in the region, according to the statement.