Sasol's troubled Lake Charles project now operating at 86% capacity

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Sasol's delayed multibillion dollar Lake Charles project in the US is now operating at 86% of its total capacity. 

The alcohols plant at the project based in the US state of Louisiana is now operational, bringing the entire speciality chemicals unit into full production, the struggling petrochemical group said in a statement on Tuesday.

With an annual capacity of 30 000 tones, the plant is the sixth of the seven at the Lake Charles Chemicals Project plant to be brought into production. The last remaining unit to come online will be the low density polyethylene plant, which was damaged during a fire in January 2020.

The build of the Lake Charles Chemicals Project at a cost of $12.9 billion has experienced delays and seen costs rise significantly from when it was first announced, leading to the ouster of its joint CEOs Bongani Nqwababa and Stephen Cornell in October 2019. Sasol is currently looking to partner with an investor in the project amid speculation in the market that it may be sold to deal with the firm's mounting debt problems.

Sasol's problems have been further compounded in recent months by the Covid-19 pandemic that has seen oil prices fall as the world's leading economies had to shutdown their economies. Last week, the company announced plans to cut jobs and that it has agreed deal with lenders on ease borrowing rules as part of a business revamp.

Shares in the Johannesburg-based company have plunged almost 68% over the past five years, compared to a largely flat JSE All Share over that time. In morning trade on Tuesday, it shares were just under 4% stronger.

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