South Africa’s state-owned oil company, PetroSA, is planning to construct a network of gas-fired power plants to tackle the country’s energy crisis, according to a report by the Sunday Times. The project could add 180MW of generation capacity to the national grid, and board chairperson Nkululeko Poya estimates that it could be ready within two years.
PetroSA has plenty of gas to power the generators, which will run on tail gas, leftover residue from the company’s oil-to-gas process at its Mossel Bay plant. However, the project requires approval from the National Energy Regulator of South Africa before it can proceed.
The plan is part of the government’s wider energy action plan to combat load-shedding, which involves procuring energy from various renewable sources, including 6,800MW of solar and wind power through bid windows 5, 6, and 7 for independent power producers. But transmission grid constraints could render additional renewable power signings useless.
The transmission grids in the Northern, Western, and Eastern Cape are already full, and this lack of transmission capacity on the national power grid could lead to more load-shedding than previously assumed. IPPs have chosen these regions due to their relatively cheap, open land and high sunshine and wind rates. As a result, new solar and wind power plants in these areas won’t be able to connect to the grid and contribute to the national power supply.
PetroSA’s plan could be an important step forward in South Africa’s energy crisis, but it will need to overcome regulatory hurdles before it can become a reality. Nonetheless, it is encouraging to see a state-owned company taking action to address the country’s energy challenges.