The increasing availability of natural gas in South Africa represents a significant opportunity for industry to lower energy costs and improve profitability, while also moving towards cleaner emissions targets. This is being made possible through the development of a rapidly expanding gas distribution network by Virtual Gas Network (a division of CNG Holdings): the first commercial-scale supply of natural gas in South Africa, now available to businesses anywhere in a 300-km radius of Johannesburg.
With limited historical access, natural gas in South Africa has been used primarily as feedstock for the production of synthetic fuels, but the discovery and development of extensive regional off-shore methane-rich gas fields (especially in Mozambique) means it can now be expanded to meet a much greater industrial demand. This will radically change the country’s energy dynamic in the coming years as more and more companies seek to optimise their operational performance and reduce their reliance on coal-based power.
Natural gas provides about one fifth of the world’s total energy requirements, with industry accounting for around 40% of total gas consumption, concentrated mainly in food and beverage, pulp and paper, metals, chemicals, petroleum refining, glass, plastics and power generation (co- and tri-generation) industries.
Boilers, furnaces, dehumidifiers, heaters and coolers, ovens, kilns and turbines can all be fired more efficiently via natural gas, which offers a consistent, high energy content of +/- 39.22 MJ (10.89 kWh) per m3 that is significantly more cost-effective than coal-based fuels. Apart from lowering energy costs as a cheaper fuel, the cleaner combustion of natural gas also improves equipment and plant performance and reduces maintenance by minimising the build-up of carbon residues and stench within components, which leads to increased production time. In the near future, the reduced emissions of natural gas – with up to 27% less CO2, NOX, HC and PM emitted than other fossil fuels – will become increasingly more critical as companies look to avoid carbon tax penalties.
Virtual Gas Network, together with fellow CNG Holdings division NGV Gas, has already converted a number of canneries, manufacturing and assembly plants across a range of industries in South Africa, in addition to fleets of warehouse forklifts in various storage and intralogistical applications, to gas.
It does so through turnkey gas solutions that cover the supply and installation of all necessary conversion equipment, including a pressure regulating plant and all associated hoses, connectors, valves and civil work requirements, through to managing the delivery of a constant supply of natural gas as required.
Any industrial company within a 300-km radius of CNG Holdings’ main compression station in Langlaagte, Johannesburg, can be supplied with gas. This includes businesses without direct access to the gas pipeline connecting Johannesburg and Pretoria, which can be serviced by Virtual Gas Network.
This ‘virtual’ distribution network is an innovative road-based delivery system of compressed gas tube trailer modules each storing compressed gas for distribution to customers. CNG Holdings, through Virtual Gas Network, manages the continuous delivery and collection of gas tube trailers as required, ensuring a guaranteed energy supply on a pay-as-you-use basis.
CNG Holdings, in partnership with the Industrial Development Corporation, is actively expanding this network to service a much wider geographic area, with Durban and Richards Bay soon to receive their first natural gas depots that will supply gas to the cities’ industry.
CNG Holdings is a partner of the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC).