South Africa is the leading economic power in Africa as well as a key player in the African oil industry. Liquid fuels are an important component of the South African energy sector.
The history of South Africa’s oil industry goes back to 1884 when the first oil company was established in Cape Town to import refined products. Since then the industry has grown and matured. Today the country processes approximately 20 million tonnes per annum of crude and consumes 23 million tonnes of liquid fuel products of which 45 % is gasoline and 26% diesel.
Until the 1990s, the upstream oil industry did not exist. There are currently small producing oilfields off the South East coast of South Africa. A nearby gasfield provides the raw materials for a synfuels plant at Mossel Bay. A gasfield has been discovered off the West coast of South Africa and exploration continues in a number of offshore areas.
Because of South Africa’s abundant supplies of cheap coal, liquid fuels only provide 21% of the energy requirements of the country. For the same reason South African refineries have extensive upgrading capability in order to maximise the production of gasoline and diesel at the expense of fuel oil which is primarily used for bunkering. Oil from coal synfuels plants provide a significant proportion of South Africa’s liquid fuels.
The major liquid fuel markets are in the Gauteng area of South Africa, so companies with easy access to this region from their manufacturing plants are at a strategic advantage.
The South African oil industry is in the throes of transformation from the industry that served the apartheid era of secrecy and boycotts to a model more in line with the democratic and economic needs of South Africa.
The MIF and NABFRA are groups representing service station owners. The CWIU, SACWU and NUMSA are unions active in the oil industry and have achieved a central bargaining unit for the oil and chemicals industry.
South Africa also has several consulting companies which specialise in the oil and energy sectors including Ernst and Young and MBendi Information Services. Among the engineering companies which specialise in the oil sector, Fluor Daniel and Kvaerner have been involved in refining, synfuels and chemicals construction projects around the world. Rawtech provides personnel and exploration skills directed at sedimentary basin analysis, seismic and sequence stratigraphy studies, well-log and core interpretation. Other oil industry bodies include the UCT ‘s Energy Development and Research Centre (EDRC) and Energy Research Institute and the Minerals and Energy Policy Centre (MEPC) which is advising the ANC on energy policy.
Chempro and CPI Engineering South Africa are key suppliers of a number of chemical products to the industry, including catalysts, process chemicals, performance additives and specialised dyestuffs.