RBIDZ to play key role in South Africa’s gas-to-power solutions

An aerial view of the RBIDZ Phase 1A located in close proximity to the Port of Richards Bay.

An aerial view of the RBIDZ Phase 1A located in close proximity to the Port of Richards Bay.

Published Mar 20, 2024


MaryAnne Isaac

THE Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone (RBIDZ) is confident that it can contribute towards solutions to South Africa’s energy challenges, as well as to Sasol’s foreseen looming crisis of insufficient liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply.

This was reaffirmed by Muzi Shange, RBIDZ’s chief operations officer, who was one of five panellists in an energy and gas webinar titled “The role of gas in South Africa’s energy transition”.

The Richards Bay area is becoming a key location for the development of gas-to-power projects and is emerging as a major gas hub in South Africa. When asked about the optimism about gas and the complexities around it such as infrastructure and investment, Shange said the issues of location, existing infrastructure and confirmed demand are key reasons why Richards Bay is bullish about gas.

“The RBIDZ is located in Richards Bay, on the north-eastern coast of KwaZulu-Natal linked to the international deep-water port of Richards Bay, where we intend to build the importation facilities for LNG. We already have existing infrastructure that links to Richards Bay from Secunda through the Rompco pipeline, which then comes down through the Lilly gas pipeline and to the picking stations into Durban. We are able to leverage on this existing infrastructure.”

The RBIDZ’s mandate has always been to stimulate economic growth through attracting domestic and foreign direct investors, as well as by driving energy infrastructure investment and development, supported by its strategic location.

Muzi Shange, RBIDZ chief operations officer

“The recent development of gas importation facilities will see Transnet’s Vopak Terminal Durban and Transnet Pipelines Consortium develop and operate a LNG terminal at the Port of Richards Bay. We are quite excited about this development as the RBIDZ has a key responsibility in ensuring that we increase the export basket through industrialisation and beneficiation of South Africa’s raw materials.

“We are home to major industrial role-players, some of which are members of the Industrial Gas Users’ Association. Large industrial users are already starting to prepare for what is likely to be the next disaster, which is the shortage of natural gas. As the Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone, we are positioning ourselves to respond to this particular challenge. All gas-to-power investments planned in the Richards Bay area sit within the Special Economic Zone.”

When asked about the gas-to-power timelines and dependencies, Shange identified the import terminal as an exciting development – adding that it is one of several components to be implemented, and is expected to be operational from 2027/28.

“There is a lot of work underway. Currently, we have the preliminary engineering designs and are confirming the open-user access point, which is important. With this point, we are able to commence work on the transmission reticulation infrastructure designs that will allow infrastructure to link up with gas-to-power sites.”

During the recent Africa Energy Indaba 2024, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe endorsed the Richards Bay area as a potential energy hub for the country to host a gas-to-power plant. The RBIDZ currently boasts a R123-billion investment pipeline of energy-related projects waiting for the IPP’s bid window to declare the way forward for implementation.

Together with the Transnet National Ports Authority, RBIDZ will develop its Berth 307 to supply LNG through the Lilly pipeline (Secunda to Durban). The Lilly pipeline supplies operations across Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga, including manufacturers that rely solely on natural gas.