VENTURES: Multi-Million Rand Fuel Research Centre For SA
Recent Western Cape Business News
Cape Town - South Africa’s first academic facility offering research on improving the quality of diesel, the R36 million PetroSA Synthetic Fuels Innovation Centre (PFSIC), was officially opened by the Minister of Energy, Dipuo Peters.
The PFSIC houses a pilot plant size reactor for the study of the conversion of olefins to distillate (COD), which has proved to be an essential part of the intricate Gas-To-Liquids (GTL) process.
PetroSA, South Africa’s National Oil Company (NOC), has provided funding to the value of R36 million to establish and operate the PSFIC at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), for an initial five-year period.
South Africa and PetroSA, in particular, are world leaders in the development of GTL technology. PetroSA owns and operates one of the world's largest COD plants at its Mossel Bay GTL Refinery. COD technology is recognized throughout the world for producing some of the cleanest fuels, through an environmentally- friendly process.
During her address at the function, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said the PSFIC would benefit South Africa.
“South Africa is faced with enormous challenges with regards to developing the human capital required to meet the needs of knowledge-based industries which are the core of a modern economy.
Natural gas reserves represent a vital energy resource for South Africa and the African continent as a whole, thus the identification and monetization of those reserves by PetroSA and UWC is of major national interest,” she added.
PetroSA has relocated a significant part of its GTL research activities from the Mossel Bay refinery to UWC. The five-year research programme is located at UWC’s South African Institute for Advanced Materials Chemistry (SAIAMC).
The SAIAMC has a track record of world-class research and development to support the energy sector. It is designated by the Department of Science and Technology as a hub for the development of the Hydrogen Economy.
The partnership with PetroSA has provided the necessary resources for research to be carried out focused on increasing the efficiency of the conversion of olefins to diesel (COD) fuel and improving the quality of diesel. PetroSA’s COD process contributes significantly to South Africa’s liquid fuel supply and has the potential to contribute even more as the demand for diesel continues to grow.
PetroSA Group CEO Nosizwe Nokwe said despite being in operation for only a year, the PSFIC had achieved a number of telling successes.
“Some of the objectives of the project are already being achieved in that a patent application has been filed and other results have been reported at specialist conferences. In addition, and very importantly, there is a considerable group of students being trained in the PSFIC at Masters and Doctoral levels, as well as those completing their National Diplomas through experiential learning, while working as pilot plant operators and research assistants,” she said.
The PSFIC team totals 27 staff members, among themPhD-level researchers, technicians, research assistants and students. In addition, the PSFIC is collaborating with other institutions of higher learning with a view to providing their students an opportunity to complete the experiential learning aspects of their technical diplomas.
“UWC is very proud of this partnership with PetroSA, which enables us to use our technical competence to assist our nation to make the most effective use of available resources. With PetroSA’s help we have constructed a state-of-the-art facility on our campus which not only improves PetroSA’s gas-to-liquid processes, but also helps us to increase the intellectual capital of our county.
“In this COD facility talented young South African researchers, many from disadvantaged backgrounds, are engaging with brilliant, highly-skilled academics from a number of science disciplines and are gaining the knowledge and experience necessary to develop and sustain innovation in Africa. We must applaud PetroSA for being a trailblazer in this respect,” said UWC Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian O’ Connell.
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