South Africa | Sasol eyes 900 MW of renewable energy from independent sources

Faced with pressure to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, Sasol has opened invitations for 900 MW of renewable energy to service its local operations.

The company, together with Air Liquide - which operates the Secunda oxygen plants it acquired from Sasol in 2020 - said the development would be the largest renewable energy procurement deal from the private sector in the country, and highlights the value of partnerships on such projects.

Both companies will jointly procure 900 MW of renewable energy by 2030, with 500 MW allocated to Sasol and 400 MW to Air Liquide.

"We are targeting the procurement of the first 600 MW of capacity this year, around 1 800 GWh per year, of which 400 MW will be allocated to Air Liquide and 200 MW to Sasol, with the envisaged commercial operation dates commencing in 2023," said Lebelo Lukhele, Sasol's chief procurement officer for the energy business.

According to the company, wind and solar photovoltaic technologies would be favoured for the first tranche of the programme.

The chemical and energy firm - which has plants in Sasolburg and Secunda - has been singled out by environmental groups as one of the country's largest greenhouse gas emitters and faced criticism for not doing enough to reduce emissions. Sasol's shareholders are expected to vote on the company's climate change strategy at the 2021 annual general meeting.

However, Sasol has stated that it had set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 10%, off a 2017 baseline, by 2030. 

"The introduction of renewable energy will be a significant contributor to our decarbonisation efforts."

Sasol in 2020 sold its air-separation business to Air Liquid as part of its asset-disposal programme to unlock capital. It said Air Liquide had after the transaction committed to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"Due to the highly integrated nature of the Secunda site and the footprint associated with the Air Separation Units, collaboration between the companies is necessary to ensure optimal greenhouse gas reduction benefits," said Lukhele.

Sasol is shifting its focus to speciality chemicals and has been selling some of its non-core assets. Its US Lake Charles Chemicals project plays a central role in its transition.

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