Tag Archive | department of enegy

Gas undoubtedly on energy back burner

Energy mix on gas unresolved…..

LP gasNot one word on gas and gas exploration, gas pipelines or gas as a contributor to the integrated resources plan has passed through Parliament in nearly one year. The last word was in respect of gas, whether oceanic or land-based, was the knowledge that fracking regulations had been published, the dropping of the oil price seeming to cool off any comment and certainly statements by international investors and companies.
President Zuma has, however made passing reference to Operation Phakisa, the plan to develop South Africa’s oceanic resources but most parliamentary reference to this programme has been in reference to the recent press releases by government in the form of a long term wish to build up South Africa’s maritime ability; create an international ship register and regulate for a merchant shipping fleet.
Going back a bit
In a parliamentary question in the National Assembly last year, Mr. S J NJIKELANAa, previously chairperson of the Energy Portfolio Committee, asked for a written reply by the then Minister of Energy on how far gas exploration had progressed and what urgent state intervention was planned, particularly as far as containment of fuel prices was concerned.
The reply came from the Department of Energy (DOE) in a reply that was somewhat evasive in that it summed what everybody knows; that the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP); the Integrated Energy Plan (IEP;) and the Gas Utilisation Master Plan (GUMP) are amongst the measures which were developed to improve South Africa’s multi-source security of energy supply.
The reply at the time gave responses on the then stage of renewable energy aggregating to cumulative contribution of 17800 MW to the IRP’s final estimate of energy from all sources of 40 000 Megawatts (MW). All of this really helped nobody.

Sourcing of energy
The second contributor to the formula was nuclear power contributing a much quoted 9600MW (and now expected to be more) and hydropower at 2600 MW, with“75% of new generation capacity being derived from energy sources other than coal”, it was stated.

 DOE finally got round to GUMP, describing it as “the development of a gas pipeline infrastructure for South Africa’s needs and to connect South Africa with African countries endowed with vast natural gas resources” but at the time DOE was still recovering from the shock of splitting up from environmental affairs and could not separate gas exploration from mining exploration, in that the Department of Mineral Resources was deeply involved. A total figure for gas has not been formulated.

Another problem for DOE.

In reality, the Petroleum Agency of South Africa (PASA) is technically responsible for GUMP although gas exploration seaDOE’s hydrocarbons division seemed to have been lumped with the problem of what has been described by most authorities and energy specialists as an “exciting hope” for solving SA’s energy problems.
In the meanwhile, it has become the poor child of the energy mix, Minister Joemat-Pettersson recently explaining last week DOE’s poor performance and lack of response on the gas issue as being due to short staffing and “too many issues” on hand.

Last definition

GUMP in fact, (when Parliament was last told} would take a 30-year view of the gas industry from regulatory, economic and social perspectives and this was in the final stage of internal approval and was expected to be released for public comment during the second quarter of the 2015 financial year.
The request for IP proposals for gas-fired generation through a gas-to-power procurement programme for a combined 3 126 MW allocation was expected to be released to the market in September this year, with a bid submission phase planned for the first quarter of 2016.

It seems that South Africa’s DOE can only handle one problem at a time. First it was Eskom and electricity and then the nuclear tendering process, which is in fact a very long term solution to South Africa’s energy problem, as put by one member.

Behind closed doors

Gas exploration, as a subject in itself, benefited from a final decision (which in fact is still mostly rumour in Parliament and unreported) that the Minister Rob Davies’s solution not to acquire 20% -25% “free carry” in gas exploration “finds” seems to be the last definitive action to be taken by government on the whole question of gas exploitation and development.

Meanwhile, Minister Joemat-Pettersson, Minister of Energy, was quoted in the media (and we quote tina-joemattEngineering News specifically) as saying that nuclear power was staying at 9600MW and hydropower at 2600 MW.
The Minister added, “We have paid little attention to gas . . . We have been preoccupied with nuclear [energy].  The South Africa we [are] dealing with now is not the same [as the one we dealt with] in 2013 [when many energy-generation plans were put into play]; the scenarios have changed,” she said to the Creamer organisation.

Not on the agenda

In the remaining few weeks of the third parliamentary calendar sessions, no meetings of the parliamentary committee on energy are scheduled for this vital component of the energy mix, although the anti-fracking lobby was particularly evident at a recent energy committee meeting on the five nuclear vendor agreements.

karoo2They were particularly agitated to hear that the South Korean nuclear vendor offers included development of uranium deposits as part of their deal, such deposits known to be in the Karoo. The only movement recently therefore on gas development would seem to be in the area of Sasol development in infrastructure development locally, presumably in pipelines, and a rather “cool” statement from Shell Oil on fracking possibilities in the Karoo related the world price of oil.
The shortage of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) to meet market demand appears to be the only gas issue to coming before Parliament in the near future.
Other articles in this category or as background
Fracking, shale gas gets nearer – ParlyReportSA
Competition Commission turns to LP gas market – ParlyReportSA
Gas Utilisation Master Plan gets things going – ParlyReportSA
Oil sea gas/debate restarted by Parliament
Uncertainty in oil and gas exploration industry

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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
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//cabinetpresidential/biofuels-development-stays-in-limbo/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/south-africa-at-energy-crossroadsdoe-speaks-out/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/ipp-3-delayed-until-mid-august-says-doe/

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