Chemicals and petrochemicals producer Sasol reports that crude oil supply has been partially restored from its majority-owned Sasolburg-based Natref refinery, after the company declared a force majeure on the supply of petroleum products to its commercial customers on July 15.
Natref, impacted by delays in crude oil shipments and a consequent force majeure at the loading port, is expected to restore full production capacity by the end of July.
Meanwhile, in terms of business performance for the financial year ended June 30, Sasol benefited from a favourable macroeconomic environment with high crude oil prices, refining margins and chemicals prices following heightened geopolitical tensions.
Sasol’s energy business benefitted from a recovery in fuels demand and higher pricing; however, volumes were lower compared with the 2021 financial year, mainly driven by Sasol’s mining division and operational challenges at its Secunda complex having impacted on the South African value chain in the first half of the 2022 financial year.
Going into the second half of the 2022 financial year, Sasol delivered an improved performance on the back of more stable operations.
Combined with marginally-improved productivity at its mining operations and higher external purchases, Sasol managed to restore its coal stockpile to in excess of 1.8-million tonnes – above market guidance of between 1.3-million and 1.5-million tonnes.
However, production at Sasol’s mining business declined by 10% year-on-year to 31.8-million tonnes of saleable product.
External purchases of Sasol’s mining products improved 41% year-on-year to 8.6-million tonnes, while internal sales of fuels declined 1% to 22.4-million tonnes and chemicals 13% to 15.2-million tonnes.
International external sales declined 12% year-on-year to 2.3-million tonnes as a result of the operational challenges of Transnet Freight Rail.
Going forward, Sasol’s coal quality remains a focus area to support enhanced production at its Secunda operations.
GAS & FUELS
In Mozambique, Sasol’s natural gas production declined 3% year-on-year to 111.2-billion standard cubic feet (bscf), exceeding its productivity plan and market guidance of between 100 bscf and 110 bscf.
External purchases of gas declined 4% during the period to 41 bscf.
External sales of gas – comprising South African natural and methane-rich gas, and Mozambican natural gas and condensate – declined 1% to 37.3 bscf.
Internal consumption of natural gas declined 4% to 99.5 bscf.
Fuels manufactured at Secunda were 10% lower year-on-year, mainly owing to having to conduct a shutdown that postponed from the 2021 financial year, coal supply and quality challenges, operational instabilities in the first half of the 2022 financial year and the April floods in KwaZulu-Natal.
However, Natref was able to support higher jet fuel output following the infrastructure damage, to help mitigate some of the jet fuel supply constraints that also occurred during this time.
A phased shutdown of the Natref refinery was initiated on July 15 owing to a shortage of crude supply from West Africa; while start-up is expected towards the end of July.
Improved performance in the second half of the 2022 financial year resulted in Sasol’s Secunda operation delivering production volumes of 6.9-million tonnes in the financial year, exceeding the market guidance of between 6.7-million and 6.8-million tonnes.
The slightly higher volumes were supported by a higher natural gas allocation diverted from Sasol’s Sasolburg operations.
During the period, Natref delivered a run rate of 555 m3/h, which was 7% higher year-on-year and within the market guidance of between 550 m3/h and 570 m3/h.
Synthetic fuels production at Sasol declined 10% to 6.88-million tonnes, while synthetic fuels refining declined 9% to 29.2-million barrels.
Sasol’s Oryx gas-to-liquids plant – which improved its use rate against nameplate capacity by 8% to 89% - produced 10% more in the period with 5.16-million barrels.
Sales of white product liquid fuels increased 1% to 52.5-million barrels, while black product liquid fuels increased 23% year-on-year to 2.7-million barrels.
Sasol’s sales revenue from its South African assets for the period was 11% higher at $4.21-billion, driven by higher prices and offset by lower sales volumes. Total external sales amount to 3.41-million tonnes.
Sales revenue from Sasol’s US assets for the period were 43% higher at $2.73-billion, driven by a 58% increase in sales prices, despite lower sales volumes. Total US chemicals production amounted to 1.56-million tonnes.
Sales revenue from Sasol’s Eurasian assets in the period were 22% higher at $3.62-billion after normalising for the third quarter of the 2022 financial year divestiture of the European Wax business. This reflects significant upward shift in sales prices. Eurasian chemicals production in the period totalled 1.39-million tonnes.
Going forward, Sasol expects further pricing and demand volatility, arising from continued geopolitical instability, excess inventories from China, supply chain disruptions and potential shutdowns related to threatened Russian energy supply.
In addition, higher inflation and interest rates will continue to impact consumers, leading to potential demand contraction.
The company will publish its full results on August 23.