PetroSA’s Block 9 offshore exploration area might no longer be available in big enough quantities to run PetroSA’s Mossgas fuel refinery in Mossel Bay, but there was sufficient “tail gas” to feed a power generation plant, and most of the infrastructure required for such as project was already in place.
Interim CEO Sandisiwe Ncemane said a strategic partner had been identified for the project, which PetroSA was still conducting its own feasibility study into.
She said in an online interview that geopolitical changes globally in the past few years meant there had been a shift in perspective when it came to energy, to a greater emphasis on security, sources of supply and using what resources were available to a country as levers in an evolving energy market. Greater regional collaboration where required was also part of this shift in perspective.
“It would be irresponsible to just ignore these resources,” she said.
She said PetroSA was currently focused on importing fuels – Eskom is one of its key clients – while another focus was on restarting the Mossgas gas-to-fuels refinery.
She said talks with a potential investment partner for the refinery were already under way, and if these were successful, the refinery might be able to reopen in phases within 18 months of the conclusion of those talks.
She said PetroSA had held engagements with TotalEnergies on its gas discoveries off the Western Cape south coast in exploration areas Block 11 and Block 12, and while TotalEnergies needed to do its own feasibility assessments, PetroSA already had infrastructure for the transport and processing of offshore gas deposits situated close to the TotalEnergies exploration areas, and “potential synergies might be realised”.
She said PetroSA was also involved in assessing the feasibility of offshore exploration activities in certain exploration blocks on the west coast.
She said apart from the global energy transition, South Africa’s economy was also currently highly exposed to volatile global oil and petroleum product prices, as well as the transport costs of those products, which was why it was essential to reinstate fuel refining capacity in South Africa.
She said PetroSA was excited that gas was likely to become a transitional energy feedstock in South Africa in the context of a diverse mix of energy sources and technologies, and it could be a cleaner feedstock for power generation, refining to produce other chemicals and fuels, and even, over the longer term, as a feedstock in the production of hydrogen.
She said the development of South Africa’s gas resources offshore and onshore needed to be tackled in a holistic fashion, considering, for instance, the infrastructure already in place and whether it was being adequately utilised, and what role the existing infrastructure could play in the transition.
She said that at a recent conference, delegates had referred to gas as a cleaner energy transition fuel for South Africa, an energy source that also held the possibility of a substantial transition period.