Gas a “game changer” in energy mix…
With 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.
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.
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