South African mineral smelters and chemical plants have the potential to generate more than 2 000 MW of electricity from hot gases, Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) CEO Geoffrey Qhena said at the official launch of the SA Calcium Carbide (SACC) cogeneration (cogen) facility this week.
The R115-million, 8 MW cogen plant, converts waste gas produced during the carbide production process into electricity using four GE-Jenbacher 620 gas engines.
All the power will be consumed by the energy-intensive Newcastle facility, which is owned by the Andina Group, of Argentina, and is also the largest producer of calcium carbide in the Southern Hemisphere.
The plant’s product, half of which is exported, is used to improve product quality in the steel industry, as well as in the production of acetylene, which is used in the welding industry.
The cogen investment reduces SACC’s reliance on Eskom by about 20% and will lower the facility’s yearly electricity bill by about R100-million.
Qhena said that, in the context of rising electricity prices, industrial beneficiation and value-added investors could no longer rely on low-cost energy as a competitive advantage.
But higher power prices were creating an opportunity for industrial facilities to tap into cogeneration prospects that were hitherto not economically viable. The IDC’s green industries strategic business unit stood ready to assist with the development and funding of a number of cogen projects.
“South African industry, existing and new, has the potential to mirror this great, but necessary, initiative at SACC to install better, more efficient processes that increase energy recovery,” Qhena said.
The investment would also reduce the KwaZulu-Natal plant’s greenhouse gas-emissions by more than 350 000 t/y and had also been registered as a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project.
The CDM allows industrialised countries with emission-reduction commitments to meet part of their commitments by investing in projects in developing countries that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
SACC shareholder and MD Roberto Carmona indicated that the project was a first for South Africa, saying it would generate some 45-million kWh of electrical power yearly.
Overseen by project managers SLR-GreenEng and also supported by Eskom’s Integrated Demand Management programme, the waste gas-to-electricity project took nine months to construct.
The CDM registration was secured in December 2012.