Industry in KwaZulu-Natal welcomes arrival of natural gas

Commercial-scale supplies of compressed natural gas will soon be available to industry in KwaZulu-Natal, with gas supplier Virtual Gas Network (VGN), a division of CNG Holdings, currently setting up shop and targeting 2018 for the first natural gas deliveries.

More cost-effective, cleaner and safer than diesel, petrol, paraffin and LPG fuels, converting to natural gas is an opportunity for plants running boilers, ovens, dryers, smelters, kilns and furnaces to significantly lower their fuel costs and increase on-site health and safety, thus improving bottom-line profitability.

Having established the infrastructure to supply gas to customers anywhere within a 300 km radius of Johannesburg, VGN has already converted canneries, hospitals, manufacturing and assembly plants across a range of industries, as well as fleets of warehouse forklifts in various storage and intralogistical applications, to gas.

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Industry in Durban and surrounding areas will be supported by the same distribution system that has enabled industries in Gauteng to introduce natural gas in their production processes. This includes the delivery of natural gas-containing tube trailers to a customer’s site via a road-based transport network that is fully operated by VGN according to each customer’s energy requirements.

With this innovative ‘virtual gas pipeline’, VGN not only ensures a constant on-site supply delivery of natural gas; it is a solution that can be quickly implemented. ‘Without the need to construct servitudes and other civil works amongst municipal utility spaces, cumbersome legislative procedures are avoided,’ explains Stephen Rothman, chief executive officer, CNG Holdings. ‘This means that an on-site supply of natural gas can be established within four to six weeks once a compression station has been established.’ VGN provides this service as a turnkey solution that includes the supply and civil and mechanical installation of conversion equipment and an on-site pressure regulating plant.

What does natural gas mean for industry?

Natural gas is one of the world’s most important fuel sources, supplying about one fifth of the planet’s total energy requirements. Industry – mainly food and beverage, pulp and paper, metals, chemicals, petroleum refining, glass, plastics and power generation (co- and tri-generation) – accounts for approximately 40 per cent of total gas consumption.

Demand for the commodity stems from its high, consistent energy content that is significantly more cost-effective than diesel, petrol, paraffin and LPG. Apart from lowering energy costs as a cheaper fuel, cleaner combusting natural gas improves equipment and plant performance and reduces maintenance by minimising the build-up of carbon residues within components, leading to increased production time.

Natural gas will also play a critical role in helping companies adequately revise their energy models in light of the introduction of the Carbon Tax Bill. With several pieces of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions legislation having already come into effect this year and a revised Draft Carbon Tax Bill expected later in 2017, South Africa’s move towards a carbon tax is in full swing. Natural gas, which emits up to 27 per cent less CO2 and other GHGs than other fossil fuels, will play a critical role in allowing companies to maintain their production targets under a cleaner, healthier energy dispensation.