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Archive | Energy

Competition Commission turns to LP gas market

Focus may be on LP gas allocations….

LP gasThe Competition Commission has announced that it will conduct a market inquiry into the state of competition in the LP gas sector.    Public comment is invited from those in the liquified gas petroleum (LPG) sector and the Commission has said that such an inquiry is being initiated because it has reason to believe that there may be features of the sector that prevent, distort or restrict competition.

In its announcement the Commission specifically draws attention to the fact there are six refineries in the country, namely – Sapref, Sasol Synfuels, PetroSA Synfuels, Natref, Enref and Chevref.

Of these, the Commission says, “Only two allocate a certain proportion of their total LPG supply to wholesalers, which may have an impact on competitive dynamics in the downstream wholesale market.”

Value chain additions

The Commission’s inquiries will also extend, they say, to these LPG wholesalers who act as middlemen, or brokers as referred to by the petroleum and gas industry, who “play” the market with allocations from manufacturers.

“Due to the shortages in LPG supply, these firms may have an impact on competitive dynamics at the wholesale level of the market. This impact will be explored during the market inquiry,” the announcement said.

Public participation

The Commission concluded that it would hold public hearings and hoped that “business enterprises along the LPG value chain, other related business enterprises, end-users, government departments, public entities, regulatory authorities, industry associations and any other stakeholders” would assist with their inquiry.

Other articles in this category or as background

  • //parlyreportsa.co.za//communications/gas-act-changes-closer-to-implementation/
  • //parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/doe-talks-biofuels-and-biomass/
  • //parlyreportsa.co.za//uncategorized/competition-commission-promises-health-care-inquiry/

Posted in Energy, Facebook and Twitter, Fuel,oil,renewables, LinkedIn, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Gas Utilisation Master Plan gets things going

Gas a “game changer” in energy mix…

gas pipelineWith the publication for comment of the Gas Utilisation Master Plan (Gump) by the department of energy (DoE), South Africa came a step further towards the finalisation of its Integrated Energy Plan (IEP), meaning also that the document has received approval by the cabinet.

The document, based on a Green Paper released by DOE some years ago, provides a framework for investment in gas-supporting infrastructure and outlines the role that gas could conceivably play in the electricity, transport, domestic, commercial and industrial sectors.

LNG and gas, offshore -onshore

The Gump outlines, amongst other issues,  the import of liquified natural gas (LNG) and piped gas from Namibia and Mozambique and plans for production of natural and shale gas in South Africa.  A plan to have 67 GW of installed gas generation by 2050 is considered by the paper.
The plan is particularly relevant at the moment with Eskom having to rely, as grid backup during the current winter, on expensive diesel-fueled open-cycle gas turbines. The Gump proposals on electricity generation, talk of conversion to closed-cycle turbine power using gas.

The paper also expands on importing electricity from gas sourced from Mozambique and Namibia with lines to the Eskom system grid including imports from the largest present and mainly undeveloped gas fields in Tanzania neighbouring the northern Mozambique fields.

Learning curve

New minister of energy, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, will have deepen her knowledge base very quickly on such matters as the IEP, energy resources and liquid fuels plans, all urgent and with immediacy.   Such issues as the process of energy integration overall and the issue of the stalled independent power producers (IPP) programme in terms of the held-over Independent System Market Operators (ISMO) Bill, are also waiting for position on the energy starting track.

DoE has also pointed to its intended coal gas programme with an IPP programme for the generation of some 6,500MW of power. The department further states that the Gump takes a 30-year view of the industry. It not only deals, they say, with the regulatory environment and economic predictions but does touch on social issues and environmental matters as well.

The master plan also talks of a gas line from Mozambique to Gauteng via Richards Bay and how gas will be distributed and stored, together with the issue of LNG terminal storage.

As a separate issue to Gump but part of the same overall plan, DOE has also released public comment the issue of investment by private merchants in fuel and gas storage, particularly referring to Saldanha Bay.

Storage, a vexed issue

Fuel storage at the present moment is traditionally undertaken by the major oil companies, in some cases integrated with state facilities and who can more easily absorb some of the more riskier aspects of this sector with their vertical interests both upstream and downstream.

DoE sees a greater contribution from investment by private merchants in storage and is currently attempting to re-structure the system to attract and build the industry to counter present storage problems and for early consideration as part of South Africa’s strategic fuels plan and as part of a licensing and regulation background.

In the short term, DoE says in its Gump programme, such a system is needed in terms of LNG holding reserves, imported as LNG or from state owned PetroSA’s gas-to-liquids plant at Mossel Bay, until more natural gas comes down the envisaged pipelines from the current exploration areas.

At the moment Sasol pipes 188-million gigajoules a year of gas into South Africa from Mozambique.  The possibility of LNG re-gasification plants offshore on the West coast in the near future is also debated in the Gump programme released.

Other articles in this category or as background
//parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/parliament-re-starts-oilsea-gas-debate/
//parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/shale-gas-exploration-gets-underway/
//parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/oil-and-gas-industry-criticizes-minerals-petroleum-bill/
//parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/future-clearer-as-gas-amendment-bill/

Posted in Electricity, Energy, Facebook and Twitter, Fuel,oil,renewables, LinkedIn, Public utilities, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Mineral and Petroleum Resources Bill halted perhaps

Mineral and Petroleum Act extends State rights…

New MPRDA starts with 20% free carry, maybe more….

oil rigThe Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill, the legislation that will give the state a right to a 20% free carried interest in all new exploration and production rights in the energy field, has been passed by Parliament before it closed and sent to President Zuma for assent. According to press reports, new minister of mineral resources, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, may have halted the process by request, however, in the light of public sentiment and opposition moves to challenge the Bill’s legality.

Section 3(4) of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) currently states that the amount of royalty payable to the State must be determined and levied by the Minister of Finance in terms of an Act of Parliament. This Act, in force, is the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Royalty Act 28 of 2008 but considerable uncertainty always surrounded how this would work and what was actually meant.

Any uncertainty has now been removed and the MPRDA amendments now passed have brought to an end a process which started when the draft Bill was first published for comment in December 2012.

Beneficiation of minerals included

mine dumpThe legislation seeks to “regulate the exploitation of associated minerals” and make provision for the implementation of an approved beneficiation strategy through which strategic minerals can be processed locally for a higher value – the exact definition of the word “beneficiation” yet having to be defined.

Importantly, the new Act will give clear definitions of designated minerals; free carried interest; historic residue stockpiles; a mine gate price; production sharing agreements; security of supply and state participation generally.

Stockpiles and residues affected

The new Act also states that regulations will apply to all historic residue stockpiles both inside and outside their mining areas and residue deposits currently not regulated belong to the owners. Ownership status will remain for two years after the promulgation of the bill.

In addition to the right to a 20% free carried interest on all new projects, ownership by the state can be expanded via an agreed price or production sharing agreements.

The NCOP concurred with Bill on its passage through Parliament and made no changes.

Legal commentators note that the Royalty Act, at present in force, triggers payment in terms of the MPRDA upon “transfer”, this being defined as the consumption, theft, destruction or loss of a mineral resource other than by way of flaring or other liberation into the atmosphere during exploration or production.

The Royalty Act differentiates between refined and unrefined mineral resources as “beneficiation”, this being seen as being important to the economy; incentives being that refined minerals are subject to a slightly lower royalty rate.

Coal and  gas targeted maybe

Nevertheless it appears, commentators note, that in terms of mineral resources coal is being targeted and also zeroed in on is state participation in petroleum licences. Others have pointed to the possible wish of government to have a state owned petroleum entity such as PetroSA to be involved fracking exploration.

Earlier versions of the Bill entitled the State to a free carried interest of 20% and a further participation interest of 30%, with the total State interest capped at 50%; however, the version that Parliament approved removed the reference to a 30% participation interest as well as the limit of 50%, effectively giving the State the right to take over an existing petroleum operation, law firm Bowman Gilfillan explained in a media release earlier this month.

Democratic Alliance (DA) Shadow Minister of Mineral Resources, James Lorimer said in a statement that the Act, “would leave the South African economy in a shambles”, adding that this would lead to people losing their jobs.

The DA has said it has now begun a process to petition President Zuma, in terms of Section 79 of the Constitution, to send this Bill back to the National Assembly for reconsideration,” he said.

Chamber opinion differs

Surprisingly, the Chamber of Mines stated that it “generally welcomed and supported” the approval of the MPRDA Amendment Bill, adding that it believed significant progress had been made in addressing the mining industry’s concerns with the first draft of the Bill, published back in December 2012.

Clearly the mining and petroleum industries particularly gas exploration industries, both of whom have separate equity BEE charters, are still very much at odds on the effects of the promulgation of such an Act, as is DA and the ANC.

Other articles in this category or as background

//parlyreportsa.co.za//bee/mprda-bill-causes-contention-parliament/

//parlyreportsa.co.za//bee/major-objections-minerals-and-petroleum-resources-bill/

Posted in BEE, cabinet, Energy, Facebook and Twitter, Fuel,oil,renewables, Justice, constitutional, LinkedIn, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Trade & Industry0 Comments

DOE spells out biofuels and biomass

Biomass, biofuels and jobs……

On the subject of creating biofuels and biomass, the department of energy told parliamentarians that the main objective of any such exercise, if it was undertaken in the agriculture industry, would be to create jobs.       However, such a move towards the use of biomass would not take place if national food or water security was jeapordised in any way.

This answer was given to the portfolio committee on energy by Muzi Mkhize, chief director hydrocarbons, department of energy (DOE), when briefing parliamentarians on DOE’s current strategy towards biofuels.  He said that in the South African context, a specific requirement of the biofuels strategy was to create a link between first and second economies and the focus was not only on jobs but specifically on creating employment in under-developed areas.

Key incentives

Bio-fuels, he said, like most renewables, required incentives in order to be cost-competitive against conventional fuels, the upside of such a direction being the saving in balance of payments, energy supply security and economic growth factors that were more stable that the volatile traditional oil market.

He referred to 2006 estimates, where a targeted 2% biofuels scenario was estimated to create about 25,000 jobs.

With the IPP third round completed, Mkhize said biofuels would contribute to the national renewable energy policy, the director general, DOE, having already advised that 93 independent power producers (IPPs) had applied for licences in the third round of requests for submissions. Thus biomass, he said, together with IPPs were contributing greatly towards targets that South Africa had in the journey to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As far as biofuels manufacturing facilities were concerned, Mkhize listed eight locations where bioethanol or biodiesel had or were being licensed. He said that biodiesel would fall within the fuel tax net and manufacturers would receive a rebate of 50%. Bioethanol would not, however.

Incentives upgrade

As was the case with all renewable energy projects, a 50:30:20 depreciation allowance on capital investment over three years would apply but DOE had started discussions which were underway to improve incentives as this was not sufficient to attract investors, it was felt.

“Infant industry” incentives over a twenty-year benchmark period were being looked at, he said, with an initial incentive of 3.5c per litre to 4c, to be recovered through a levy to be included in the national monthly price determinations.

Overproduction threat

It was pointed out by parliamentarians that about 229 million litres of fuel were sold annually for about R9,2bn and if all players in the fuel industry joined the process as required, there would be an excess with about 4-6% of biofuels produced over the national call for 2%. Who would take up the excess, they asked.

Mkhize was also asked what agro studies had been done and how were farmers responding to a possible call for biomass crops. Also, they asked, if there was drought or some similar disaster, what would happen to the fuel industry in the reverse case of a shortage of biomass.

Mkhize said there was a general agreement in place only on agricultural biomass and this was “only in the form of mindset until pricing and subsidy issues were finalised, so accordingly the question of national quantities in relation to fuel company needs did not arise”.  However, he confirmed that the fuel industry would not be allowed to suffer from a shortage of biomass delivered.

Treasury and subsidies

In answer to more questions, Mkhize said a licence to produce biomass would not disallow a farmer from switching crops, say from soya to maize.  But, he added, all this was total speculation until “national treasury came up with the answers on subsidies”.

When MPs complained that the picture given by DOE “was no more than a snapshot of where we were on biofuels exactly one year ago”, Mkhize said he was trying to show the milestones that had been reached in the enormously difficult stage that the fuels industry had reached with regard to the entry of biofuels, which was a strategic issue.

Gas the issue

He said there were issues such as LPG remaining the forerunner of natural gas to be investigated as this household market had to expand and added, “We are looking at the system used commercially of bringing gas from Mozambique to Durban and whether this is the basis for further development.”

Mkhize promised his department would deliver shortly on promises to deliver DOE’s plan for gas expansion but this was not part of the biofuels or biomass study. All such matters were intertwined in terms of the integrated resources plan with the eventual integrated energy plan for the whole country.

Making a profit

On new entrants to biomass to fuel production, Mkhize responded to questions that it had been shown that the breakeven point for any biomass plant was a constantly changing factor over a long period and it was difficult to establish at what point a subsidy of, say, 2% would assist.

He said breakeven studies showed from a 2% profit, moving down to 5% loss for a long while, and then eventually moving up to 10% profit had been the standard established and banks did not like that kind of venture. Models he said were difficult to establish that were both profitable in either the short or long term.

There had been great disappointment when oilcake made from soya had proven too costly for biodiesel and it had been found that better recoveries could made through the food industry. This had proved a setback, Mkhize said.

Sugar cane

In answer to queries on sugar cane possibilities for biomass, as practised in Brazil and possible land shortages in South Africa, Mkhize said that the SA Sugar Assoc had said that land was available but that sugar cane was more likely to be linked to co-generation of electricity energy. Brazil, he said, had a vast subsidized lower income biomass agricultural industry but was producing on a large scale for biodiesel, not bioethanol as would be required in SA.

Mkhize concluded that the DOE biofuels task team was studying very carefully the forward national food security and water situation, “because”, he said, “we cannot afford to subsidize an industry in the form of small scale farmers if we are at the same time threatening food security and water availability at the same time.”

Back to jobs

However, he said that the country at the moment could not ignore the huge potential for job creation that could be brought about by such a new industry and the present lack of agricultural knowledge on the subject would eventually be substituted by experience gained by the new entrants as they established themselves.

In answer to questions on where blending would take place and “whether this was upstream or downstream in the fuel industry”, meaning at refineries or at depots it was assumed, Mkhize said a lot would depend on where the crop was grown; the wish to support crops grown in rural areas; sustainable projects that had been developed; and water availability.

previous articles on this subject
//parlyreportsa.co.za//cabinetpresidential/biofuels-development-stays-in-limbo/
//parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/south-africa-at-energy-crossroadsdoe-speaks-out/
//parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/ipp-3-delayed-until-mid-august-says-doe/

Posted in Energy, Facebook and Twitter, Land,Agriculture, LinkedIn, Trade & Industry0 Comments

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