Every Friday morning, SAfm’s AMLive’s radio anchor Sakina Kamwendo speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:
Kamwendo: Imported gas is being earmarked to kickstart South Africa’s new gas-to-power electricity vision.
Creamer: Sasol conducted a round table with the media this week to outline their vision for gas, which is now seen as on the horizon in South Africa. Of course, the problem is that we don’t have gas in the country, so how do you get going in gas? Sasol itself is exploring both in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean off Durban for gas.
They have already bought down gas for some time now from Mozambique and looking for more gas from Mozambique. Mozambique, of course, is seen as a very big potential source of gas. With gas and domestic gas anticipated, what do you do to actually get this industry going? They are going to try and kickstart it by importing gas.
So, you import liquefied natural gas (LNG) the cost of which is favourable at the moment and you create the facilities at a port that you select, either Saldanha, Richards Bay or Coega. Then you build your power station close to where that infrastructure is as a starting point in this gas fired power. We already have that through Sasol, they are already producing 440 MW of its own gas at Secunda and is now keen to get involved in this LNG phase which will be the subject of a Department of Energy tender, which is expected to come out in the first half of next year for 3 126 MW of gas-fired power, specifically LNG gas, which would need to be imported.
So, that could be the starting point for South Africa getting more heavily involved in the lower carbon emission type production, which is contrasted with coal, which is very dominant at the moment, and produces 80% and more of our electricity.
Kamwendo: Natural gas is to be used as a transport fuel to bus children to school in the Free State.
Creamer: This is a deal that has been struck by Renergen which is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. It is a company on the AltX. They have acquired gas in the Free State from Molopo South Africa in a R650-million deal. Now they have struck up a contract with Unitrans Megabus in the Free State which will be introducing compressed natural gas busses.
These busses will initially operate in Virginia in the Free State and hopefully move into Theunissen and Welkom taking kids to school and also miners to work in the area. We know that the Free State has had a lot of gas in the early days and the miners started drilling their they were looking for gold, but they would find gas.
That is a above the gold reef, so there is a lot of activity going in above where the mining takes place. Even now liquefied helium is a potential from the Free State. This particular company Renergen is not going for the tenders that come out from the Department of Energy, but is linking up with blue chip business in the area. It also anticipates that some of the mines will want to get electricity from gas in the same way as we spoke about Sasol doing it.
So, opportunities are arising in the Free State because of this gas that is there, which was never really been exploited and the company Renergen now moving in and funding itself to actually get involved in this area where it has secured the countries only onshore production right in the deal with Molopo.
Kamwendo: Gold Fields is building a 3D model so that investors can see exactly what’s going on 3 km underground while sitting in the comfort of the board room.
Creamer: This is possible these days with all the technology available and all the software, number crunching and visualisation that can be done. You can actually really see what is happening 3 km under the ground, but you can also see yourself going down in these haulages and witness this massive mine that Gold Fields have got.
In Gauteng, the province of gold, this will be the last mine standing, and it is not the normal mine with the very narrow reef, not even as high as this table where you have to duck underneath and do some hand held drilling. This is so huge it is taller then a double decker bus that still has room for a roof rack. You can go in there and do amazing things in this mine.
So, it is completely mechanised already and we hear from Gold Fields that they are already using the A-word, automation. So, they might even move into a new phase. One of the highlights of their modernisation programme is this 3D modelling visualisation which you will be able to see what is going on. Workers will be able to get skills by watching these visualised activities within the mine. Investors will be able to say, why are you going that way and not this way and interrogate everything and feel more confident when investing in mines and looking at the orebody that has the gold and seeing it first hand.
This is involving partnerships from a lot of companies, but Gold Fields not only operates in South Africa, but also in Australia. Now, they are saying that the technological advances in their mines in Australia are even far more advanced and that South Africa needs to play catch up. In it St Ives mine in Australia it is already using drones for surveys and it has got sensors on its trucks and looking now very seriously at driverless trucks.
This is the sort of thing that is on the rise, a lot of activity to increase productivity. As the Gold Fields CEO Nick Holland said they are not doing this because they want to, they are doing it because they have to. To survive in these times, you have to embrace this technology that can keep the mines profitable.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly, he’ll be back with us at the same time next week.