SACC opens cogen plant

SACC opens cogen plant

With an investment from the Industrial Development Corporation, South Africa Calcium Carbide has built a cogeneration plant that will cut its electricity bill and help the environment.

Going green is encouraged around the world and plenty of companies in South Africa are answering the call. South Africa Calcium Carbide (SACC) is one such company putting the environment centre stage.

With assistance from the Industrial Development Corporation, the SACC opened a multi-million rand 8 MW cogeneration (cogen) plant on 19 March in the picturesque town of Newcastle in Kwazulu-Natal.

Established at a cost of R105-million, the plant will partly protect SACC against rising electricity prices; but it will also help the strained South African power grid by reducing demand – which allowed it to qualify for a grant from Eskom’s Integrated Demand Management programme for energy efficiency, says the IDC.

Enthusiastic workers lined up in the scorching heat to welcome the dignitaries, including King Goodwill Zwelithini, who arrived to celebrate the official opening of the plant.

Speaking at the launch, Geoffrey Qhena, the IDC’s chief executive, said: “It is also environmentally positive as it will reduce greenhouse gas carbon dioxide emissions by more than 45 000 tonnes per annum.”

SACC is Africa’s only producer of calcium carbide, which is used in the desulphurisation of steel and in the production of acetylene. Acetylene is mainly used for welding. “The production of calcium carbide, used in the welding, cutting and steelmaking industries, is an energy-intensive business. As Africa’s sole producer of this product, SACC at full capacity uses about 50 MW of electricity, or half of Newcastle’s power capacity,” added Qhena.

Electricity is the single biggest input cost of production at SACC and the cogen plant will cut the annual bill of more than R100-million by about 15 percent. The plant has four GE Jenbacher engine sets, funded by the IDC, having a generation capacity of 8 MW in total.

“Technically, the project is cutting edge, combining state-of-the-art gas engine electrical generators and advanced gas cleaning and conditioning systems. The engines demand that the furnace off-gas is extremely clean, which provides an optimal environmental benefit of the project,” explained Tony Stalberg, SACC’s project design and technical manager.

Zulu monarch King Goodwill Zwelithini welcomed an initiative “that will aid in abating apartheid economic burdens. I hope this means workers will get appropriate living wages and that they will respect productivity”.

What this means for South Africa

Qhena added: “Cogeneration – the use of waste, whether solids, liquids, or gas as fuels, or simply using waste heat – in industries makes them more energy efficient and lowers their costs, while reducing environmental harm.”

The cogen plant will create about 300 direct jobs and another 1 000 jobs in the raw material production, supply and logistics value chain. The plant uses 100 percent locally sourced minerals of lime and coke, which are reacted using 100 percent locally generated electricity in the most advanced and largest electric arc furnace to produce calcium carbide in the southern hemisphere.

Half of the production of calcium carbide is exported, with the majority market share in Africa, the Middle East and Australia. The Americas, Europe and Asia are also export markets.

“The IDC’s role – as it has been for more than 70 years – is to assist the development of South African industries, such as SACC, that add value and provide jobs to our economy,” said Qhena.

Social responsibility

SACC is one of many companies in the private sector that is accepting its social responsibility and is becoming more involved in community development. It contacted the local Department of Education in the Amajuba District, asking for a list of the most underprivileged schools in the area.

Of these, it selected Emfundweni High School to assist. The school is a community built, rural school near Dannhauser, about 30km from Newcastle.

Speaking about the school, Neraksha Bhowani, SACC’s human resources manager, said: “Observed was a strong sense of learning and teaching from both educators and learners. There appeared to be strong leadership, order and structure in this school environment. The school is an old institution, having been established in 1961.”

To begin with, SACC had proposed building a new ablution block for the school this year, Bhowani explained, an idea that was warmly received by the principal.


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