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Date: 15 May 2012
Title: Facility to help improve diesel quality
Pretoria - Energy Minister Dipuo Peters has officially opened the R36-million PetroSA Synthetic Fuels Innovation Centre (PFSIC) - the country's first academic facility offering research on improving the quality of diesel.
The centre houses a pilot plant-size reactor for the study of the conversion of olefins to distillate (COD), which has proved to be an essential part of the intricate Gas-To-Liquids (GTL) process.
PetroSA, South Africa's national oil company, has provided funding to the value of R36 million to establish and operate the innovation centre at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) for an initial five-year period. The five-year research programme is located at the university's South African Institute for Advanced Materials Chemistry.
Peters said the centre would benefit the country.
"South Africa is faced with enormous challenges with regards to developing the human capital required to meet the needs of knowledge-based industries which are the core of a modern economy.
"Natural gas reserves represent a vital energy resource for South Africa and the African continent as a whole, thus the identification and monetization of those reserves by PetroSA and UWC is of major national interest," said Peters.
South Africa and PetroSA are world leaders in the development of Gas-To-Liquids technology.
The national oil company owns and operates one of the world's largest COD plants at its Mossel Bay GTL Refinery. The COD technology is recognised throughout the world for producing some of the cleanest fuels, through an environmentally friendly process.
The company has relocated part of its GTL research activities from the Mossel Bay refinery to the university.
PetroSA's COD process contributes significantly to South Africa's liquid fuel supply and has the potential to contribute even more as the demand for diesel continues to grow.
Group CEO at PetroSA Nosizwe Nokwe said despite being in operation for only a year, the PSFIC had achieved several successes.
"Some of the objectives of the project are already being achieved in that a patent application has been filed and other results have been reported at specialist conferences. Importantly, there is a considerable group of students being trained in the PSFIC at Masters and Doctoral levels, as well as those completing their National Diplomas through experiential learning, while working as pilot plant operators and research assistants," she said.
The PSFIC team totals 27 staff members, among them PhD-level researchers, technicians, research assistants and students.
The centre is collaborating with other institutions of higher learning with a view to providing their students an opportunity to complete the experiential learning aspects of their technical diplomas. -BuaNews