|This article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2012)|
|Traded as||NYSE: SSL
|Industry||Oil and gas
|Headquarters||Johannesburg, South Africa|
|David Constable (CEO)|
Number of employees
Sasol Limited is an integrated energy and chemical company based in Johannesburg, South Africa. The company was formed in 1950 in Sasolburg, South Africa. It develops and commercialises technologies, including synthetic fuels technologies, and produces different liquid fuels, chemicals and electricity.
Sasol is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange. Major shareholders include the South African Government Employees Pension Fund, Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa Limited (IDC), Allan Gray Investment Counsel, Coronation Fund Managers, Investment Asset Managers, and others. Sasol employs 34,000 people worldwide and has operations in 38 countries. It is the largest corporate taxpayer in South Africa.
On March 9, 2015 Sasol announced it will cut 1,500 jobs in response to low oil prices.
- 1 Operations
- 2 Technology
- 3 History
- 4 Social investments and sponsorship
- 5 Controversies
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Sasol has exploration, development, production, marketing and sales operations in 38 countries across the world, including Southern Africa, the rest of Africa, the Americas, Europe, Middle East, Northern Asia, Asia, Southeast Asia, Far East, and Australasia.
The Sasol group's structure is organised into four focused business clusters: South African energy cluster, international energy cluster, chemical cluster and other businesses.
South African energy cluster
The South African energy cluster comprises the businesses upon which Sasol was founded. It supplies around a third of South Africa's inland liquid fuel requirements. In June 2014 the company entered into a joint venture with Eni to explore 82,000-km2 offshore of South Africa's east coast for hydrocarbons. Under the terms of the deal Eni acquired a 40% interest in the exploration permit and was handed operational rights.
International energy cluster
Made up of two part, the International energy cluster comprises Sasol Synfuels International and Sasol Petroleum International.
The international energy cluster is the driver of Sasol's international growth aspirations. Sasol Synfuels International supports the group's existing and future international gas to liquids (GTL) and coal to liquids (CTL) facilities. Sasol Petroleum International explores and produces upstream resources to secure feedstocks for Sasol's downstream technologies.
Made up of Sasol Polymers, Sasol Solvents, Sasol Olefins & Surfactants, Sasol Wax, Sasol Nitro, Sasol Infrachem and Merisol.
In South Africa, the chemical businesses are integrated in the Fischer-Tropsch value chain. Outside South Africa, it operates chemical businesses based on backward integration into feedstock and/or competitive market positions.
Sasol New Energy develops and commercialises new technologies, and implements and operates facilities based on these technologies, to pursue growth in power generation and low-carbon and renewable energy alternatives.
Sasol Financing manages the group's central treasury.
Sasol Technology focuses on research and development, technology management and innovation, engineering services and project management.
Sasol has granted final approval for a US$8.1 billion ethane cracker and derivatives plant and an integrated GTL and chemicals facility in Westlake, Lake Charles, Louisiana, is the largest foreign investment in the history of the State of Louisiana. "Once commissioned, this world-scale petrochemicals complex will roughly triple the companies chemical production capacity in the United States, enabling Sasol to further strengthen its position in a growing global chemicals market. The U.S. Gulf Coast's robust infrastructure for transporting and storing abundant, low-cost ethane was a key driver in the decision to invest in America". The ethane cracker will also be supported by six chemical manufacturing plants.
The Oryx GTL plant in Qatar is a joint venture between Sasol and Qatar Petroleum, launched in 2007. The more than 32,000 barrels per day (5,100 m3/d) plant produces a combination of GTL diesel, GTL naphtha and liquid petroleum gas.
This gas project came into operation in 2004, and is a joint venture agreement between Sasol Petroleum International, Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos (ENH), and the International Finance Corporation. Sasol is developing a 140 MW gas-fired electricity generation plant in partnership with power utility EDM.
The Sasol Slurry Phase Distillate (SPDTM) Process transform natural gas into energy and chemical products, including transport fuels, base oils, waxes, paraffins and naphtha. The three-stage process combines three proprietary technologies. Natural gas is combined with oxygen to form a syngas which is then subjected to a Fischer-Tropsch conversion, resulting in waxy syncrude. Finally, this is cracked down to produce the end product.
The strength of the Sasol SPDTM process is not simply in the inherent quality of the three component technologies but more importantly how they are combined and integrated to increase efficiencies and optimise output. This integration is grounded in Sasol’s 60 years experience in synthetic fuels production. The liquid fuels produced through its GTL and CTL technologies are high-performance, low-emission products. The synthetic GTL-based diesel is an environmentally cleaner burning fuel as it leads to a reduction in carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon and particulate matter without compromising NOx emissions even when compared to European sulfur-free diesel.
A high-temperature syngas conversion process is operated in Secunda in a series of 10 Sasol advanced Synthol (SASTM) reactors at high pressure with the aid of an iron-based Fischer-Tropsch catalyst at about 350°C to yield primarily C1 – C20 range hydrocarbons. The process also produces water and oxygenated hydrocarbons which are then purified and marketed. The C2 stream is split into ethylene and ethane. The ethane is further cracked to yield additional ethylene which are then converted into polyethylene for the polymer business. Propylene from Secunda and Sasolburg plants are also converted into high-value products such as polypropylene, butanol, butyl acrylate and ethyle acrylate. The acrylates are used to make superabsorbent polymers which are use diapers. Through Proprietary technology 1-hexene, 1-octene and 1-pentene are recovered from the oil stream. International customers use these as co-monomers for making speciality grade polymers. Some of the higher olefins (C11 – C12) are converted into detergent-range alcohols.
A low-temperature syngas conversion process is operated in Sasolburg based on an iron-based catalyst in fixed-bed tubular and Sasol Slurry Phase Distillate™ processes to produce mainly linear hydrocarbon waxes and paraffins. The syngas (mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide) is also converted in methanol, butanol and ammonia. Ammonia is then further converted into nitric acid and ammonium-based fertilizers and explosives.
Tetramerisation: Make the impossible possible
In 1997 Sasol Technology Research and Development began research on the selective trimerisation of ethylene to hexane. This led to the development and patenting of 6 trimerisation catalyst systems. A groundbreaking innovation was made in 2002, with the discovery of a tetramerisation catalyst that could make 1-octene in high selectivity. This was considered impossible by international experts in the field. Construction of this first-of-a-kind plant in Lake Charles, Louisiana, is under way. The ready for commissioning date is August 2013.
Sasol is also involved in conventional oil refinery. The Natref refinery was commissioned in Sasolburg in 1971. The refinery is a joint venture between Sasol mining (Pty) Ltd and Total South Africa (Pty) Ltd. Sasol Mining has a 63,64 percent interest in Natref and Total South Africa a 36,36 percent shareholding. The refining capacity of Natref to 108,500 barrels per day. Natref is one of the only inland refineries in South Africa. It was designed to get the most out of crude oil and is equipped with state-of-the-art technology. The refinery uses the bottoms upgrading refining process using medium gravity crude oil and is capable of producing 70% more white product than coastal refineries that have to rely on heavy fuel oil. Some of the products produced from the refinery are diesel, petrol, jet fuel, LPG, illuminating paraffin, bitumen and sulfur. Natref has been certified in terms of the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System.
The incorporation of Sasol
South Africa has large deposits of coal which had low commercial value due to its high fly ash content. It was thought that if this coal could be used to produce synthetic oil, petrol and diesel fuel, it would have significant benefit to South Africa. In the 1920s, South African scientists started looking at the possibility of using coal as a source of liquid fuels. This work was pioneered by P. N. Lategan, working for the Transvaal Coal Owners Association. He completed his doctoral thesis from the Imperial College of Science in London on The Low-Temperature Carbonisation of South African Coal. In 1927, a white paper from the government was issued describing various oil-from-coal processes being used overseas and their potential for South Africa. In the 1930s a young scientist named Etienne Rousseau obtained an MSc from the University of Stellenbosch. His thesis was entitled, The Sulfur Content of Coals and Oil Shales. Rousseau became Sasol’s first managing director. After World War II, Angovaal bought the rights to a method of using the Fischer-Tropsch process patented by M. W. Kellogg Limited and in 1950 Sasol was formally incorporated as a state-owned company as South African Coal, Oil and Gas Corporation. Commissioning of the Sasol 1 site for the production of synfuels started in 1954. Construction of the Sasol 2 site was completed in 1980, with the Sasol 3 site coming on stream in 1982. The Zevenfontein farm house served as Sasol’s first offices and is still in existence today.
To support the required economies of scale for Coal-to-Liquids (CTL) process to be economical and competitive with crude oil, all stages of the operations, from coal mining to the Fischer-Tropsch process and product work up must be run with great efficiency. Due to the complexity of the Lurgi gasifers used the quality of the coal was paramount. The initial annual output from the Sigma underground mine in Sasolburg was 2 million tons. Annual coal production from this mine peaked in 1991 at 7.4 million tons. Today the majority of the gasifers in Sasolburg have been replaced with autothermal reformers that feed natural gas piped from Mozambique. Natural gas generates approximately 40 – 60% less carbon dioxide for the same energy produced as coal and is thus significantly more environmentally friendly. Gas-to-liquids (GTL) technology converts natural gas, predominately methane to liquid fuels. Today Sasol mines more than 50 million tons (Mt) of saleable coal a year, mostly gasification feedstock for Sasol Synfuels in Secunda. Sasol Mining also exports some 2.8 Mt of coal a year. This amounts to approximately 22% of all the coal mined in South Africa. Underground mining operations continue in the Secunda area (Bosjesspruit, Brandspruit, Middelbult, Syferfontein and Twistdraai) and Sigma near Sasolburg. The new Thubelisha shaft will eventually comprise an operation delivering more than eight million tons per annum (mtpa) of coal over 25 years. The Secunda colliers form the worlds largest underground coal operations.
In conjunction with the continuous improvement in the Fischer-Tropsch process and catalyst, significant developments were also made in mining technology. Coal mining at Sasol from the early days has been characterised by innovation. There are two basic methods of mining a coal stream, either through long-wall mining or you can use explosives or a continuous miner. Sasol experimented with long-wall mining methods from 1967 to 1980. Today Sasol is one of the leaders in coal mining technology and was the first to develop in-seam horizontal drilling (directional drilling) into an effective exploration tool and currently makes use of direction drilling technology. Working with Fifth Dimension, Sasol developed a virtual reality technology to help train operators in a 3D environment in which various scenarios can be simulated sound, dust and other signs of movements.
Fischer Tropsch Reactor Technology
The initial reactors from Kellogg and Lurgi gasifiers were tricky and expensive to operate. The original reactor design in 1955 was a circulating fluidised bed reactor (CFBR) with a capacity of about 1,500 barrels per day. Sasol improved these reactors to eventually yield about 6,500 barrels per day. The CFBR design involves moving the whole catalyst bed around the reactor which is energy intensive and not efficient as most of the catalyst is not in the reaction zone. Sasol then developed fixed fluidized bed (FFB) reactors in which the catalyst particles were held in a fixed reaction zone. This resulted in significant a significant increase in reactor capacities. For example the first FFB reactors commercialised in 1990 (5 m diameter) had a capacity of about 3,000 barrels per day, while the design in 2,000 (10.7m diameter) had a capacity of 20,000 barrels per day. Further advancements in reactor engineering have resulted on the development and commercialisation of Sasol Slurry Phase Distillate (SSPD) reactors which are the corner stone of Sasol’s first of a kind GTL plant in Qatar.
From Fuels to Chemicals
The fuel price is directly linked to the oil price and is thus subject to potentially large fluctuations. With Sasol only producing fuels, this meant that its profitability was largely governed by external macroeconomic forces that it had no control over. How could Sasol be less susceptible to the oil price? The answer was right in front of them, in the treasure chest of chemicals co-produced in the Fischer-Tropsch process. Chemicals have a higher value per ton of product than fuels.
In The 1960s ammonia, styrene and butadiene became the first chemical intermediates sold by Sasol. The ammonia was then used to make fertilizers. By 1964 Sasol was a major player in the nitrogenous fertilizer market. This product range was further extended in the 1980s to include both phosphate- and potassium-based fertilizers. Today Sasol sells an extensive range of fertilizers and explosives to local and international markets and is a world leader in its low-density ammonium nitrate technology.
With the extraction of chemicals from its Fischer-Tropsch product slate coupled with downstream functionalization and on purpose chemical production facilities Sasol moved from being just a South African fuels company to become an international integrated energy and chemicals company with over 200 chemical products being sold worldwide. Some of the main products produced are diesel, petrol (gasoline), naphtha, kerosene (jet fuel), liquid petroleum gas (LPG), olefins, alcohols, polymers, solvents, surfactants (detergent alcohols and oil field chemicals), co-monomers, ammonia, methanol, various phenolics, sulphur, illuminating paraffin, bitumen, acrylates and fuel oil. These products are used in the production process of numerous everyday products made worldwide and benefit the lives of millions of people around the world. They include hot-melt adhesives, car products, microchip coatings, printing ink, household and industrial paints, mobile phones, circuit boards, transport fuels, compact discs, medical lasers, sun creams, perfumes and plastic bottles.
In South Africa, the chemical businesses are integrated in the Fischer-Tropsch value chain. Outside South Africa, the company operates chemical businesses based on backward integration into feedstock and/or competitive market positions for example in Europe, Asia and the U.S.A.
Social investments and sponsorship
Sasol devotes most of its sponsorship investment in South Africa to Sports. Among others, Sasol sponsors South Africa's national teams, including:
- The South Africans Women's Football team – Banyana Banyana
- The South African Paralympics team
- The South African Men's National Wheelchair Basketball team
Sasol also sponsors the annual Sasol Rally, the Sasol New Signatures art competition, the Black Tie Ensemble, the South African National Youth Orchestra, and the Techno X Festival of Science, Engineering and Technology.
Environmental conservation programmes, on the other hand, focused on:
- Wild dogs, vultures and ground hornbills
- The support of educational programmes including natural history publications
- Birding related projects
Sasol also supports the following corporate initiatives:
- Nepad Business Foundation
- Business Trust
- Black Management Forum
In 2009 Sasol agreed to pay an administrative penalty of R188 million as part of a settlement agreement with the Competition Commission of South Africa for alleged price fixing, in which a competitor alleged that Sasol was abusing its dominance in the markets for fertilisers by charging excessive prices for certain products.
Sasol also had to pay a €318 million fine to the European Commission (EC) in 2008, which is about R3.7 billion, for participating in a paraffin wax cartel. Despite its indication that it would appeal the fine amount, the full amount had to be paid to the EC within three months of the fine being issued.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sasol.|
- Sasol Official website
- How Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa perfected one of the world's most exciting new fuel sources. Slate Magazine
- Google Maps view of Sasol's Secunda plant
- SciFest Africa, part of Sasol's investment in science education in South Africa
- Sasol suffers shareholder fury at AGM over e318m EU fine
- Activist shareholder turns the screws on Sasol
- Fury at Sasol's AGM over price-fixing fine
- Greenpeace Sues Sasol for Corporate Espionage – video report by Democracy Now!