Durban/Joburg fuel pipeline opens after years of delays, spiralling costs

Johannesburg - Transnet’s long awaited Durban to Johannesburg pipeline, pumping fuel inland from the coast, finally completed its nine year journey this week, when the new pipeline and its fuel accumulation facility near Heidelberg was officially launched.

The state-owned entity’s New Multi-Product Pipeline had been dogged by delays and cost overruns, but will significantly improve security of supply risk for Gauteng’ fuel supply.

The cost of the project, dubbed Medupi II by the Democratic Alliance in Parliament, jumped from R12.7bn to R30.4bn in the nine years it has taken to complete.

The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) launched a probe at one stage to determine why the project had been so drastically delayed, when Transnet had hoped to complete it by no later than 2012.

Transnet's  New Multi-Product Pipeline,which will bring improved security of fuel supply to Gauteng, was officially launched this week after nine years.  

Although the 555km pipeline first started transporting diesel in 2012, the full completion of the plant now enables the pipeline to move four petroleum products, including the two grades of petrol, unleaded 93 octane and unleaded 95 octane.

The new pipeline will replace the existing and ageing Durban-to-Johannesburg fuel pipeline.

Apart from the 555km Durban pipeline, the full network comprises a 160km, 16-inch-diameter inland pipeline network, incorporating links from Kendal to Waltloo, Alrode to Langlaagte and from Jameson Park to Alrode, inland and coastal terminals, and three pump stations.

The pipeline ends in the Jameson Park fuel accumulation facility, near Heidelberg, with the four accumulation tanks able to stockpile a substantive amount of fuel in future that will help Gauteng's supply of fuel.

The network has a capacity of 1 000 m3/h, but could be scaled up to 3 000 m3/h in future. It was designed to have a life cycle spanning more than 70 years. The pipeline is projected to pump 7-billion litres of petroleum products in the current financial year.

While the Jameson Park facility is now completed, the Island View station at the Port of Durban is also still being upgraded.

“Our main function is to make sure that we move fuel to all parts of the country and this project will certainly achieve that," said Transnet CEO Siyabonga Gama.

The full commissioning of the plant is timely as well, as it will also enable Transnet to mitigate the security of supply risk during the planned shut-down of Sasol’s Natref refinery in October.

Cost escalation

Transnet Pipeline CEO Lennie Moodley admitted at the launch of the full facility that the project had faced many challenges in its completion.

“But our perseverance paid off and we are extremely proud of this project,” he said.

Initially forecast to cost R12.7bn, its budget later increased to R15.4bn before escalating to a further to R23.4bn in 2012. The state-owned entity said on Wednesday that it had invested R30.4bn into the pipeline up to now.

Transnet told Nersa that the project has been affected by various factors including contractor performance, contract management on Transnet’s part, inclement weather- and industrial action-related delays.

Moodley said the project was much needed to supply the lifeblood of Gauteng’s economy to its doorstep and was a big leap to ensure that Gauteng remained energy secure.

He believed the fuel accumulation facilities were an investment in the future of South Africa. 

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