South Africa, on the other hand, has placed LNG firmly on its agenda, which includes importing the fuel from neighbouring Mozambique to generate electricity at gas-to-power plants along its coastline. These will be developed by independent power producers (IPPs).
The gas-to-power IPP programme in South Africa aims to use transportable LNG as fuel for the proposed gas turbine power plants. To date, the department of energy (DoE) has indicated that they have identified three major ports in South Africa – including Saldanha Bay, Richards Bay and Coega – where floating storage and regasification units (FSRU) will be stationed for LNG receiving and regasification.
From there, natural gas in gaseous form will be piped to the power plant. This is quite an exciting development as while it is proven and used in a number of countries around the world, it will be a first for the country – and will allow South Africa to build IPP gas power plants in relatively short periods of time. It will also pioneer development of a wider scale expansion of the natural gas distribution and utilisation infrastructure in South Africa.
Just as importantly, South Africa’s gas aspirations call for the effective harnessing of its own LNG reserves, including the shale gas resource that still need to be thoroughly explored in the Karoo. The positive and negative environmental and social impacts that may result from the development of the Karoo shale gas need to be assessed on a scientific and technical basis and measured against the country’s Gas Utilisation Master Plan framework policy.
However, South Africa urgently needs a set regulatory framework that identifies its key resources and lays out the foundation for the necessary investment in infrastructure. Only then will the country be able to monetise natural gas and use it as a key driver for promoting growth and economic development.
Many African economies – along with their power sectors – are experiencing seasons of rapid transformation; and the monetisation of natural gas is certainly a key driver for promoting growth and economic development in several sub-Saharan Africa countries. However, there is also huge potential for developing power generation capacities, where we are already seeing a number of capabilities and gas-to-power projects come to fruition – and I therefore believe that gas-to-power has a substantial role to play in Africa’s power mix. These developments are very promising.
I believe the gas-to-power programme will significantly contribute towards South Africa’s power mix and technology diversification, today and well into the future.
Wayne Lindecke is the director, power generation, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, Africa