Diesel addict Eskom needs a new drug – energy minister

Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson at the Gas Options meeting in Cape Town.
Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson at the Gas Options meeting in Cape Town.

Cape Town – Eskom is addicted to diesel and must wean itself off this expensive and unhealthy substance, Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said on Tuesday.

“I have to take this diesel addict off this substance,” she said. “I have to give it another drug – one that is a little cheaper – and that is gas. I have an agreement with Eskom to convert OCGTs (open cycle gas turbines) back to gas.”

Eskom was spending about R1bn per month on diesel to power its OCGTs earlier this year, using this expensive technology to avoid the impact of load shedding.

As part of a directive by the war room, Eskom is working with PetroSA on OCGT conversion from diesel to dual fuel, using both diesel and gas.

Joemat-Pettersson told stakeholders and government delegates at the Gas Options meeting in Cape Town that the potential for gas must be recognised.

The meeting is a crucial step for businesses in gas-based Independent Power Producer (IPP) programme to deliver 3 126 MW of gas-fired power generation between 2019 to 2025.

The minister assured investors and businesses that they should invest in gas development in South Africa in all forms of the value chain. “The immediate step is to consolidate our strategy with the private sector,” she said. “IPPs cannot succeed without transparency, if they are not reliable and if they don’t meet strict time frames.”

Joemat-Pettersson said South Africa is unusual in how it consumes gas. “We want to behave as a developed country, but we don’t use gas like a developed country. I have to demystify myths and stereotypes in South Africa about gas.”

The minister said South Africa is in direct talks with SADC countries to develop a seamless approach to gas in the region.

She said there were gas reserves in Botswana, Angola and Mozambique. “Large discoveries of gas in Mozambique has opened up opportunities for agreements,” she said. “Operation Phakisa – which means 'to speed up' - will invest in gas discovery on the west coast.”

The vision for gas is that it will deliver timely, reliable and affordable energy, she said. “The industry should be encouraged to explore on-shore and off-shore gas resources.”

Dr Wolsey Barnard, deputy director general of energy programmes and projects at the Department of Energy also clarified government’s stance on shale gas or fracking.  

“Reserves are not fully proven on shale gas,” he said. “There are more emotions around the issue than real facts. We can only act once we have those facts and if it’s economically viable to move forward.”

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