JSE-listed energy and chemicals group Sasol on Monday said that, despite challenging conditions, it expected to maintain its full-year Synfuels production guidance of between 7.2-million and 7.4-million tons.
Sasol Synfuels recorded a production of 1.8-million tons during the first quarter of the 2013 financial year, compared with the 1.6-million tons reported in the corresponding period in the prior year. By October, the synfuels unit had produced 2.4-million tons.
In a note to shareholders, CFO Christine Ramon also said that Sasol expected technical and labour productivity challenges, which resulted in a delay in the conversion of two auto thermal reformers to gas-heated heat exchange reformers, to affect the full-year production outlook.
Sasol reported a 12% rise in production for the three months to September, supported by stable operations during a planned phased maintenance outage in September, as well as the commissioning of new equipment, such as four additional gasifiers and a seventeenth reformer.
The company’s 49%-owned Oryx gas-to-liquids (GTL) joint venture, in Qatar, recorded a strong performance, achieving above-design output of 1.5-million barrels during the three-month period – an 18% increase compared with the 1.27-million achieved in the first quarter of 2012.
Meanwhile, Sasol continued to prioritise its capital investment project pipeline for the next ten years and would stagger the group’s growth opportunities to achieve “maximum benefit”.
The company would move forward with the front-end engineering and design (Feed) of the integrated two-phase 96 000 bl/d GTL and chemicals facility complex, as well as an integrated 1.5-million-tons-a-year ethane cracker plant, both located in Louisiana, in the US.
Ramon reported that the total current project cost estimate for the GTL facility had risen to between $11-billion and $14-billion, owing to a change in the fuel/chemicals configuration and higher cost escalations, owing to the phasing of the project after the ethane cracker.
Beneficial operation of the ethane cracker plant was expected to be achieved during 2017, followed by the two phases of the GTL complex during 2018 and 2019.
The project cost estimate for the cracker had also increased to between $5-billion and $7-billion, owing to an increase in plant capacity, as well as the inclusion of additional downstream derivative units.
The Feed work for the group’s proposed GTL facility in Western Canada would follow on from the integrated GTL and ethane cracker complex, while the the Feed work on the Uzbekistan GTL project was expected to be completed during the second half of this year.