GARDEN ROUTE NEWS - There is concern in Mossel Bay over the potential "devastating" impact PetroSA's efforts to obtain alternative gas supplies for its refinery could have on the local infrastructure and economy.
PetroSA's off-shore gas fields along the Mossel Bay coast are nearing depletion and production from the refinery is expected to cease in December.
The state-owned entity has now issued a tender in an effort to find a company that will be tasked with supplying, storing, delivering (providing) and offloading liquid natural gas (LNG) to the refinery. The tender includes project management, design, supply, installation, testing and commissioning of the complete gas supply system, at an "affordable" price. The contract term is five to eight years.
The public has until 19 November to comment on the proposed project.
In the tender document, PetroSA said, "In the absence of an immediate solution, the (refinery) will be placed under care and maintenance for future use."
It further stated that preference will be given to proposals that will not involve permanent infrastructure and distribution networks (which will be in conflict with the government-sanctioned gas project at the port of Coega). This has set off the alarm bells in the Mossel Bay community, according to an anonymous source of the Mossel Bay Advertiser, George Herald's sister publication.
In a Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development document dated 30 October 2018, reference is made to proposed offloading of gas from water vessels to railway trucks at the station in the harbour, from where it will be transported to Voorbaai to be dispatched to PetroSA.
The source said the format of the gas supplied can apparently not be delivered through PetroSA's existing pipeline and the only alternative would be by rail or road. Both would have a devastating impact on the town and harbour (where a popular restaurant and other businesses are located).
"Imagine a train with 200 tankers, or several trains, running constantly to and from the refinery. It would cause pollution, total disruption and it will be the end of the town's characteristic laidback, coastal charm. The noise impact will be enormous," said the concerned source.
"Several unused railway crossings at places like the Diaz development, Diaz Beach and Santos Beach will suddenly become active. And what will happen to the Diaz Express? The contract is only temporary, but the local economy could suffer a blow from which it could never recover."
In response to a query from the Mossel Bay Advertiser, the Mossel Bay Municipality on Tuesday confirmed that the lack of information regarding the exact methodology proposed to transfer the gas "is worrying".
"The municipality has, therefore, asked for an urgent meeting with the chief operating officer of the Mossel Bay PetroSA Refinery and the relevant stakeholders of the Western Cape provincial government," said municipal spokesperson, Nickey le Roux.
"With the proposed contract terms of five to eight years, the municipality is concerned about the possible use of railway tankers for the transfer of the LNG to the refinery and the resultant impact thereof on Mossel Bay's infrastructure, the local tourism industry and local businesses. The municipality is also concerned about the seeming lack of public participation and consultation with regard to the tender."
The municipality said it is aware of the impact of PetroSA on the economy, but Mossel Bay also relies heavily on the vibrant tourism industry for job creation.
"The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc, and the proposed meeting will hopefully serve to provide answers."
New gas finds
During a visit in October to the DeepSea Stavanger platform at Mossel Bay, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said Total South Africa's recent Brulpadda and Luiperd gas finds off the Mossel Bay coast could help revitalise PetroSA.
PetroSA had not responded to a request for comment before going to print.
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