Sasol Commissions Wax Expansion

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Sasol commissioned the first phase of its Fischer-Tropsch wax expansion project at its Sasolburg Operations in South Africa.

It marks another step toward expanding our Southern African operations as part of our dual regional strategy, while demonstrating our commitment to South Africa through industrial investment, Bernard Klingenberg, executive vice president, Southern Africa Operations, Sasol Ltd., said in a news release.

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The company has commenced phase II of the wax expansion project with major construction activity already underway, and commissioning is expected in the first half of 2017. For the entire project, Sasol said it will invest 13.6 billion rand (U.S. $1.1 billion) in the South African economy.

Marketed through Sasol Performance Chemicals, hard waxes, medium waxes, liquid paraffins and waxy oils are applied to a variety of industrial applications.

Amy Claxton, principal of consultancy My Energy in Hummelstown, Pa., said Sasols Fischer- Tropsch wax expansion project at the Sasol One site in Sasolburg has been long awaited – in planning since 2009 as a two-phase expansion.

My Energy estimates both phases may add another 100,000 to 130,000 metric tons of hard Fischer-Tropsch waxes, as well as some medium Fischer-Tropsch waxes and liquid paraffin. These waxes can be used in South Africa but will likely be exported to find higher market values in Western Europe and North America, Claxton told Lube Report. F-T waxes have grown steadily in the global market over the last two decades, with the erosion of paraffin waxes as Group I plants have closed, and Sasol continues to be the world leader in F-T wax technology, manufacturing, and marketing applications.

Fischer-Tropsch waxes are produced by wax plants in gas-to-liquid or coal-to-liquid plants that convert natural gas or coal to liquid petroleum products. Sushmita Dutta, project lead, energy, for consultancy Kline & Co., told Lube Report that currently there are only two major Fischer-Tropsch waxes producers globally: Sasol, which produces in Sasolburg, South Africa; and Shell that produces in Bintulu, Malaysia. In addition to these two suppliers, Dutta noted that small quantities of CTL waxes are being produced in China. Chinese Fischer-Tropsch wax quality is inferior to the products made by Shell and Sasol, she pointed out.

In 2012, Kline estimated the global F-T wax production capacity at 722.4 million pounds. Sasol and Shell each accounted for 46 percent each of this volume, and the Chinese companies accounted for the remaining 8 percent of global capacity. Kline projected that by 2017, global Fischer-Tropsch wax production would increase to 880 million pounds, primarily due to production expansions by both Sasol and Shell. Kline expected that by 2017 Sasol will double its existing capacity while Shell will increase its capacity by one-third, Dutta said.

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