Petrochemicals giant, Sasol said it has invested R14 billion in its Sasolburg operations indicating its “commitment to its South African asset base”.
Sasol does need to showcase the level of its affiliation to the post 1994 development agenda being a company that drags along a historical character that made it closely associated to the apartheid government. Sasol did struggle for some time to find a comfortable image in the post 1994 politics as could be seen with a few but high profile run ins with stakeholders who progressive political tags, including the Public Investment Corporation (PIC).
Over the years the group has undergone some transformation partly through bringing in black executives with clout to engage the post 1994 polity. These will include individuals like Nolitha Fakude who serves as executive director. Consequently Sasol has been aggressive in initiatives (commercially and socially) which harness its South Africaness.
The group said in a statement the expansion of the Sasolburg operations first announced in March 2010 was advancing well to transform the Sasolburg skyline, day by day.
The group said the investment is the largest development on the Sasol One Site since the establishment of the company almost 62 years ago and is in line with Sasol’s strategy to leverage its advanced proprietary technology. The investment is also aligned with Sasol’s longer term plans to significantly grow its chemicals businesses.
Projects currently in progress as part of the R14 billion project are the wax expansion project, which entails the construction of a wax production facility at a cost of approximately R8, 4 billion in Sasolburg. The second phase is currently underway.
Some of the plants in the first phase have been commissioned. Once phase two is complete, Sasol will have doubled its current hard wax production capacity in South Africa.
Ethylene Purification Unit 5
The R1,9 billion ethylene purification plant, driven by good local demand for polyethylene material, will provide additional 48 000 tons of additional ethylene capacity per year, allowing better utilisation of the existing downstream polyethylene plants. The plant is expected to start up in the 2013 financial year.
Sasol Gas Engine Power Plant
The construction of the Sasolburg project to produce 140 megawatts (MW) of power using natural gas is on track to ramp up Sasol’s additional self-generated electricity to 60% of its requirements by the 2013 calendar year. The R1,8 billion project will replace coal-fired power generation and enable Sasol to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions from Sasolburg by a further one million tons a year. Construction started in July 2011 and commissioning is expected in the fourth quarter of 2012. Sasol concluded an agreement with the Finnish company, Wärtsilä South Africa, to operate and maintain the plant for three years. As a result of this and other projects, Sasol Sasolburg is on track to produce 60% of its electricity requirements by 2013.
Clean Fuels 2
Clean Fuels 2 specification regulations were gazetted on the 1st of June 2012. Sasol continues to engage with the South African Government (National Treasury and the Department of Energy) on cost recovery mechanisms and specifications to be prepared and published by the South African Bureau of Standards. This will impact Sasol’s crude oil refining joint venture, Natref, in Sasolburg, necessitating substantial investment to comply with the specification regulations. Natref produces mostly petrol, diesel, jet fuel, paraffin, light petroleum gas and various grades of bitumen with a limited amount of by–products, such as liquid sulphur, liquefied carbon dioxide, sodium hydrogen sulphide and ammonium sulphide.
Creating employment opportunities
The expansion projects are creating much-needed employment opportunities in the Sasolburg area. However, as the projects are progressing, the need for scarce skills is growing. The biggest requirement is still for highly-specialised welders. Recruitment and appointing of highly-specialised welders are being done by the management of contractors according to the Sasol Out of Country Nationals Policy in conjunction with Sasol and the Department of Labour. Apart from coded welders, there is also a shortage of experienced and well-trained scaffold builders, and to a lesser extent boiler makers and fitters.