City looks at switching to gas

2015-09-17 06:00

PIETERMARITZBURG residents and businesses could in future be using gas as alternative energy­, if a municipal study proves this to be viable.

A resolution to embark on the study was passed at a recent executive committee meeting at City Hall.

Hulamin, the aluminium products company and one of the city’s biggest employers, is already South Africa’s single biggest user of gas, and is only one of a number of businesses that rely on gas in the region.

Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business CEO, Melanie Veness, said the study is “absolutely necessary” as local businesses have struggled against a national gas shortage, as well as load shedding in recent months.

The addition of the municipality as a large-scale gas user will make the city an even better opportunity for gas suppliers to pipe competitively priced gas to the city, said Veness.

Municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi said the municipality will appoint a service provider to prepare a feasibility study and cost-benefit analysis.

A task team would visit Ghana and the UK to gather knowledge on the industry.

At the moment gas for the business sector is trucked into Pietermaritzburg.

Nkosi said the country had faced its worst power outages in seven years and the move toward gas in Msunduzi would represent a step forward, not just for the city, but for the country.

The city would consider two types of gas as an alternative energy source - liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and natural gas.

LPG is a sub-category of petroleum products that is produced along with, and extracted from, natural gas.

The municipality and Hulamin held a meeting last year to discuss alternative energy options.

The report to council said a Sasol pipeline transports natural gas from Mozambique to Newcastle, Richards Bay and Umbogintwini and “ideally” it would be good if the pipeline could be connected to Pietermaritzburg.

The pipeline would enable the city to “address electricity consumption demand and free the city from the Eskom grid”, said Nkosi.

Msunduzi might also negotiate with Transnet for the use of a pipeline that previously used to pipe fuel from Durban to Johannesburg.

“Cities globally are urbanising rapidly and the expected projections for the world’s population will be about 70% urbanised and living in cities by 2050.

“Therefore the way in which cities are viewed and how they function becomes very important because this is where the majority of the world’s population­ will be living,” said Nkosi.

Sasol said last week it was considering building a 3 000 megawatt gas-to-power facility in South Africa.

The government is also planning a gas-to-power procurement programme, with private sector bids expected to be announced in the first quarter of 2016.

Sasol’s gas loop-line, which connects to the main gas pipeline between South Africa and Mozambique, is also being expanded.

Earlier this year, it was established that at least two companies were investigating the supply of gas to energy-hungry industrialists in and around Pietermaritzburg.

One company was the Pretoria-based Gigajoule Group, which has been distributing gas in Mozambique for 10 years.

The second company, Sacoil, which has a number of former senior civil servants on its board, started a feasibility study earlier this year to supply gas from Mozambique to either Pietermaritzburg or Pretoria, in partnership with a Mozambican company

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