Natural Gas molecules are on the increase in the electricity plants that are powering the South African economy.
Between July and August 2013, two public statements have announced gas to electricity projects with generation capacity of 1,140MW. One is commissioned and working, the other two are about to be developed.
A month and half after Sasol, the country’s petrochemical giant, inaugurated a 140MW gas engine power plant at its Sasolburg site, Investec Bank came out saying it would lead the financing of two gas power plants that will generate more than 1,000 megawatts as part of the country’s $933 million independent producer programme. The plants are being developed by GDF Suez, the French multinational utility company. The planned 670MW facility at Avon in the country’s south east province of KwaZulu-Natal is due to start generating in 2016. The proposed 335MW Dedisa plant in Eastern Cape is expected online in 2015.
The total capacity of the three is minuscule compared to the country’s 42,000MW generating capacity, which is 85% coal fired. But a gas-fired power plant is the exception in South Africa.
Sasol said at the time it inaugurated its plant, on July 10, 2013, that the facility has consistently been producing above its operating capacity at 152 MW since commissioning in December 2012.
“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,” said Lean Strauss, Senior Group Executive, International Energy, New Business Development and Technology.
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.
South Africa’s energy policy has not always viewed natural gas, the world’s least polluting fossil fuel, as an important resource for its planned, massive increase in electricity supply capacity.
The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for the country, published as a government gazette in May 2011, envisages an addition of 42, 600MW of new build electricity generation capacity between 2010 and 2030, to all existing and committed power plants. The plan assumes a nuclear fleet of 9,600MW; 6,300MW of coal; 17,800 MW of renewable; and 8,900 MW of other generation sources, which includes only 2, 400MW of close cycle gas turbine generated power.
The main supply of natural gas for the Sasol 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 IFC. It is not certain where GDF Suez will get the gas for its two gas-fired plants.