Tag Archive | NECSA

NECSA says nuclear will come to SA

……may 15 2020……

A damaged NECSA plans its energy future

….. The South African Nuclear Corporation (NECSA), with an employee role beyond its capacity as a result of waiting  for a R750bn nuclear programme which never arrived, might be getting back on track with the possibility of nuclear down the track.  Having lost some extremely valuable and experienced, government is attempting, it seems, to be breathing life into this once highly successful operation nearly destroyed by political interference.

NECSA is a valuable but largely ignored nuclear component in the stable of the now combined  Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), an entity which for the last ten years has been subjected to mismanagement, patronage, lack of management appointments and a considerable number of ministerial financial scandals.

After the years of waiting during the Zuma era, NECSA then lost and additional two years with the integration of the departments of mineral resources into energy but appears that DMRE , its parental department, has appointed a new board with new ideas on a NECSA future.

Bigger picture

The DMRE this year presented a plan to Parliament for an estimated budget of R9.3bn for the current financial year, 95% of which will be transferred as usual to its entities.

These will be Council for Geoscience National Energy; the Regulator of South Africa (NERSA), Central Energy Fund (CEF) (including PetroSA and the Strategic Fuel Fund or SFF):  the National Nuclear Regulator’s office(NERSA); NECSA itself; the National Radio-Active Waste Disposal Institute; Mintek and other smaller entities such as the Mine Health and Safety Council, the State Diamond Trader and the Diamond and Precious Metal Regulator.

Parliament therefore had to consider recently the period ahead covering 2020-2024 in the form of the Medium-Term Strategic Frameworks, or projections, for all these DMRE bodies.   This is no mean task in the light that may have suffered from the perambulations, thievery and in some cases, sheer ignorance resulting from the switchback ride of ten successive ANC ministers of energy and and ministers of mining.

Disjointed empire

Himself a  somewhat confusing and at times erratic Minster of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe  is now trying to put back the combined pieces of the jigsaw representing DMRE into some sort order but until now he seems to have been dealing with the edges and corners pieces of the puzzle but not dealing with the centre section where the working parts are.

Nobody is ever quite sure, it seems, in the case of NECSA, what actually is going on in this somewhat secretive corner of government.    In this area, now that the Zuma myth of the “New Build Nuclear” has been dispelled thanks to a court order to this effect, the re-tasking and consolidation of Minerals Resources and Energy department has been mostly completed.

The magic word

However, the question of nuclear energy has once again arisen, mainly due to a passing comment from the Minister that nuclear was indeed to become at some time part of the energy mix.

Ears pricked up in the environmental lobby camp and energy experts said in aghast that the energy mix after years of debate was now fixed.  One must remember, of course, that the nuclear energy issue never really goes away in the light of Koeberg power station operations in Cape Town and and medical isotopes from Pelindaba, Pretoria.

Half a billion in the red

The NECSA subsidiaries are NTP Radio Isotopes, Pelchem, Pelindaba Enterprises and Safari-1. NECSA overall has suffered cumulative losses of R257.78m in the 2016/17 and 2017/18 financial years and is expected to announce an even larger loss of R294.27m for 2018/19, resulting in cumulative losses of R552.05m for the three-year period.

This was more than evident in NECSA recent presentation to Parliament which, as it turned out, was just an interim report and more of a wish list than anything else.   Nevertheless, the ‘plan’ does indicate a complete change of direction.

SOE problems

In the case of NECSA the return to  “normality” might be a little faster than the other problem child of Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE),  PetroSA.    Sadly, in NECSA’s case, many excellent scientific brains have gone elsewhere and an opportunity to establish SA excellence in the field of isotopes lost.

The frightful track record of losses came to a head in 2019 when it was stated in the NECSA annual report that “ the significant delay in any new nuclear power plant programme to be undertaken by NECSA had become irrelevant”.  This was established to be for experts hired but never deployed.  “Irregular and wasteful” as the Auditor General put it.

Turnaround plan

The NECSA board filed a report in 2018, signed by former chairperson Dr Rob Adam and former acting CEO Don Robertson, which attempted to return NECSA to its original mandate of to promoting radiation sciences and technology research which included a programme of the retrenchment of valuable staff as part of the process of slimming down.

Both Dr Adam and CEO Robertson then left NECSA having filed the report with new DMRE department but this gathered dust, it appears, since other priories in gas development and Eskom dramas must have occupied the mind of Minister Gwede Mantashe.  However, he subsequently and eventually appointed Ayanda Myoli as acting CEO of NECSA.

In his first attendance at Parliament, 19 May 2020, Myoli  told Parliament that NECSA that for the coming year, NECSA would have a turnover of more than R2bn in the 2020/21 but still carrying a projected net loss of R61m on its shoulders.

Possible profits

Myoli told MPs last week that the key financial objective in the short term was to reduce losses and to rehabilitate the balance sheet to enable it to fund its growth and expansion strategy.  Looking ahead he further told the Portfolio Committee that for year five of the plan ahead, NECSA expected to make R550m in net profit and by 2030, R1.4bn net profit.

Over the next 12 months, he said the group’s objectives included commercial subsidiary NTP Radioisotopes regaining its 20% share in the global market for Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) medical radioisotopes, lost due a hibernation period when the station at Pelindaba was closed down in terms of UN requirements.   In the future NECSA is to increase its range of medical radioisotopes from three to four, Myoli added and continue support services include irradiating target plates from the SAFARI-1 research reactor.

 Competing with China

Another objective is to re-gear NECSA’s other subsidiary, chemical manufacturer Pelchem, who produce fluorochemicals in competition with China, and increase its revenues by R78m by building the necessary plant to enter the  commercial hydrogen fluoride industry, Myoli said.

With sister subsidiary Mintek, Pelchem would enter the antiretroviral drug market working with “international partners” Myoli then said, aiming to achieve a 35% share in the local ARV market and targeting to earn revenues in excess of  R721m per annum.

Re-entering nuclear

Ayanda Myoli stated that NECSA was not only to be responsible for the recreation of a nuclear fuel cycle in South Africa, protecting and maintaining the Koeberg installation but was proposing a new multi-purpose 2,500 GW nuclear reactor direction for the future.

In questioning NECSA, Kevin Mileham (DA) said he was particularly concerned that Ayanda Myoli had talked about a about 2 500 gigawatts nuclear reactor, small as that maybe compared with previous plans  of past president Jacob Zuma. This would fall, Mileham presumed, under the mysterious Pelindaba Enterprises, which according the, had hardly been mentioned in the framework plan at all for the next period. He asked for confirmation

Conflict on statements

DA’s Mileham said any nuclear reactor did not align with the IRP, which made no provision for 2 500 gigawatts from any new build projected. He said that NECSA must be working off the wrong version of the IRP and said CEO Ayanda Myoli had simply repeated what Minister Mantashe had announced a week ago when he spoke on this to the media. Mileham, as shadow minister of energy for the DA, wanted an official explanation in writing as this was the first time the issue had been raised in Parliament.

CEO Myoli responded that the IRP had delineated what plant ought to be commissioned up to 2030. He said the IRP does not list what goes beyond 2030. He added that even assuming DMRE, on behalf of NECSA, placed contracts in 2024 for any relatively small and supplementary new build nuclear programme, there would be nothing online before around 2030/32, after the current IRP period had expired.

Commenting as an individual, Myoli said that he felt that the current IRP had a weakness in this area  as it now considered inputs in process nine years from now, and for mega projects in energy nine years was absolutely nothing.

Further nuclear questions

Myoli said any ARV’s with Pelchem would be produced under licence from Macleod Pharmaceuticals Limited from India, currently the largest producer and supplier of ARVs and TB pharmaceutical products. Currently, they were awaiting the final concurrence from the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health on this.

It seems Macleods  it is one of the ten largest pharmas in India owned by Dr Rajendra Agarwal & family producing generics for a range of diseases including asthma, osteoporosis and diabetes.  Agarwal’s older brothers Girdhari Lal Bawri and Banwari Lal Bawri are chairman and joint managing director respectively.

 Wrapping up 

In conclusion, the presentation said that the new strategy was intended to make NECSA “a world leader in nuclear radiation and related technologies and chemicals  by 2030”. The strategy set targets for the next 12 months, the next five years and the next ten years.

Although the meeting time was limited (the main problem with parliamentary virtual meetings) it was quite apparent that by no means had NECSA close to explaining its full programme for the future, nor in fact was it ready to disclose this in detail.

Posted in Energy, Enviro,Water, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Trade & Industry0 Comments

PetroSA on the rocks for R14.5bn

Project Apollo plan to save PetroSA…

Sent to clients 6 Oct.…..A team comprising of industry experts is now defining a new strategy to save the PetroSA struggling offshorePetroSA logo gas project on the East Coast.   The experts were not named but the exercise is entitled Project Apollo and reports were given to Parliament that the team has progressed well so far, said controlling body Central Energy Fund.

Despite producing a balance sheet that shows a technical cash profit of R2.5bn in simplistic terms made up of revenue less operating costs, in reality PetroSA is clearly beyond business rescue in proper commercial terms unless it manages to get a bail-out from Treasury to save the troubled entity from written off “impairments” of R14,5bn. But business rescue is on the way it would appear.

R11.7bn of the “impairment” was as a result under performance of its Project Ikhwezi to supply gas onshore to Mossgas.

Reality sets in

The total loss for 2014/5 was in reality R14.6bn after tax.      Project Apollo will now tackle the main cause of the loss at Ikwhezi, options stated as including “the maximisation of a number of upstream initiatives; the utilisation of tail gas; and how the gas-to-liquid refinery itself can be optimised with the new, revised and “limited under-supply of feedstock.”

cef logoThe Central Energy Fund (CFE), acting as the parent body for PetroSA, told Parliament that it is applying for such assistance, PetroSA being flagged by Cabinet some twelve years ago as “South Africa’s new state oil company”. CEF described PetroSA’s performance as merely “disappointing”, which raised the ire of most parliamentarians.

Those present

To add pain to the proceedings for Deputy Minister of Energy, Thembisile Majola, and senior heads of the Department of Energy (DOE) also in attendance together with the full board of CFE represented by new acting Chairman Wilfred Ngubane, the auditor general’s (AG) highly critical findings were read out one by one to MPs of the Portfolio Committee on Energy.

All this resulted in the remark from Opposition member, Gordon Mackay, that PetroSA “instead of becoming afikile majola national oil company had become a national disaster”. Criticism was levelled at both CEF and PetroSA across party lines, Chairman Fikile Majola demanding that Parliament conducts its own forensic audit and investigation into the facts that had led PetroSA to achieve such spectacular losses.

It appears that in the total accounting of the loss of R14.6bn for the year under review, R1.8m was also incurred in the form of non-performance penalties; stolen items of R110,000; over payments in retrenchment packages of some R3m; and R55,000 stock losses. Irregular transactions in contravention of company policy amounted to some R17m, the AG noted.

Lack of industry skills

Although the AG’s report was “unqualified” in terms of correct reporting, lack of management controls and bad investments were identified by the AG as the problem. In fact, acting CEO of PetroSA, Mapula Modipa, clearly inferred that lack of skills generally in the particular industry, lack of background knowledge in the international oil investment world and lack of experience in upstream strategic planning had led PetroSA year after year into its loss situation.

Particularly referring to troublesome investments in Ghana, Equatorial Guinea and continued exploration and production at Ikhwezi resulting in the “impairment”, a sort of write down of assets totalling R11.7bn, reports have been submitted before to the Portfolio Committee on Energy over the last two years. Warnings were given.

However in this meeting the AG’s views on the subject were under discussion and the terminology used by the AG could only be interpreted, as put by MPs, as poor management decision-making, lack of knowledge of the oil industry and the appropriate management skills in that area.

Roughnecks wrestle pipe on a True Company oil drilling rig outside WatfordHowever, over the years going back over previous annual reports for the last five years with forwards by Ministers and Cabinet statements issued over the period, it becomes self-evident that the “drive” to establish PetroSA as a state entity in the fuel and gas industry was politically driven, coupled with (as acting CEO Mapula Modipa had inferred) inexperience in the top echelons.

Still the Mossgas problem onshore

However, self- evident this year were the declining revenues from the wells at sea supplying Mossgas, where it was stated that now one wells had been abandoned, three were in operation and two had yet to be drilled. Project Inkwezi, against a target of 242bn barrels per cubic feet (bcf) only delivered 25 bcf from three wells. A “joint turnaround steering committee” had been formed to help on governance issues, technical performance and the speeding up of decision making. But the bcf is unlikely to change

Part of the new plan has involved of a “head count reduction” and employees had been notified. It was admitted that PetroSA had an obligation to rehabilitate or abandon its offshore and onshore operations costed at R9.3m in terms of the National Environmental Management Act and a funding gap of R9.3m now had to be bridged in the immediate future to pay this further outstanding in terms of the Act.

Further forensic audit

The cross-party call for an independent parliamentary forensic investigation that was made (which included thegordon mackay DA chairperson Fikile Majola as the driver behind the motion) “will hopefully not just result in a blame game”, said Opposition MP Mackay “but get to the bottom of how such an irresponsible number of management decisions with public money took place over so long a period.”

Chairperson Majola (ANC) concluded “This amount of money (R14, 5bn) cannot just be written off without someone being responsible.” He added, “There has appeared much difference between the abilities of technical staff and the technical knowledge of the leaders and decision makers on the board of PetroSA.”

Minister of Energy, Ms Joemat-Pettersson, was again absent from the meeting. However, earlier, in the meeting, the Deputy Minister standing in for her, said “when all is said and done we intend staying in this business”.

Nil from Necsa

necsaA meeting following in the same day, following the CEF presentation, was a report from the Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) which failed to happen because Necsa were unable to produce an annual report or any report, Minister Joemat-Pettersson having obtained an extension of one month to the end of October for the annual report to be ready. Chairperson Majola said that the meeting could not take place without a financial report since oversight of such report was their mandate.

Opposition members complained that not only had Parliament’s time been wasted but that the whole instruction for Necsa to be present “appeared to be a media exercise to show that the governing party was on the ball”.

A litany of problems
The extension for the Annual Report conclusion had been granted to the Minister in terms of the Public Finance Management Act (PMFA), a fact well known, but the media were present in strength in the morning not only for the CEF’s explanation for the PetroSA loss but in the afternoon for Necsa explanation of its loss as a regulatory body, in the light of current media reports on irregularities, staff resignations and dismissals.

Other articles in this category or as background
PetroSA has high hopes with the Chinese – ParlyReportSA
CEF hurt by Mossel Bay losses – ParlyReportSA
Better year for PetroSA with offshore gas potential – ParlyReport

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