Transport fuel-from-coal manufacturer Sasol had selected a coalfield in the western part of South Africa’s Limpopo province as part of its prefeasibility study into the proposed Mafutha coal-to-liquids (CTL) project, Sasol executive director Benny Mokaba said on Monday.
Mokaba said – during question time after Sasol CEO Pat Davies had presented yet another set of outstanding annual financial results, in which operating profit soared 32% to a record R34-billion – that Sasol was also looking into the option of using coalbed methane gas as a feedstock for Mafutha, the prefeasibility study for which was at an advanced stage.
Sasol would also be looking at carbon capture and storage (CCS) options to determine whether CCS was “practical and doable”.
“The intent is to build a plant as carbon-capture ready as possible,” Mokaba said.
“We are also open to the use of coalbed methane and we are looking at all options,” Mokaba said.
Steps were being taken to determine the volumes of available coalbed methane gas.
The coal reserves in west Limpopo were applied for with a black economic empowerment (BEE) partner.
“As it stands at the moment, we do have a partner and it is a significant South African partner with coal reserves. It’s a BEE partner and let’s leave it at that,” Mokaba said.
“Our drilling programme continues. We have actually drilled more holes in order to avoid situations that may be similar to what happened at Majuba power station to ensure that we know exactly what the lay of the land looks like.
“We have also done community assessment, we have engaged the community and we have had meetings to ensure that we do not start planning to put things where it would not be morally or communally feasible to do that.
“The programme continues. We have had an extension on our drilling programme, which the government approved, and we are engaging in a continuous drilling process,” Mokaba told Mining Weekly Online.
Indications so far were that the coal could be useful and, if economically feasible, Mafutha would come on stream in 2016.
In the region around western Limpopo, on the border of South Africa and Botswana, the Toronto-listed CIC Energy is planning its own CTL plant in liaison with petroleum company Shell, which has developed its own CTL technology to rival that of Sasol's.
NEW SECUNDA MINE
Completed in Secunda was the new Rooipoort coal mine, which was built at a cost of R1-billion.
Rooipoort was both a synfuels and an export mine.
Mokaba said that Sasol had reserves in Secunda for more than 35 years of synfuels production.
The company also has coal assets in the Free State, the location of the original Sasol One in 1950.
Davies said that the company was undertaking a baseline impact study in the Limpopo for Mafutha, which was an 80 000 bbl/d project. The next step would be to initiate an environmental-impact assessment.
Mafutha is tantamount to a fourth Sasol, the main existing one being the enormous 160 000 bbl/d Secunda operation, where a 4% increase in capacity is on its way based on natural gas from Mozambique, with another 16% increase in capacity part of a prefeasibility study.
Mafutha is a greenfields project that Mokaba said might access “vast reserves of coal” in the area.
In India, Sasol was working with Tata on possible CTL opportunities, while it was also advancing what was likely to be its first CTL plant outside of South Africa in China.