IDC and SACC inaugurate R105m co-generation plant is launched in Newcastle

SOUTH African mineral smelters and chemical processing plants had the potential to generate more than 2 000 megawatts of electricity from co-generation, Geoffrey Qhena, the chief executive of the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), said last week.

“Here in KwaZulu-Natal, the sugar and forestry industries have the potential to produce more than 1 000MW and 400MW, respectively,” Qhena said during the launch of a R105 million calcium carbide co-generation project in Newcastle.

The IDC, which along with South African Calcium Carbide (SACC), launched the 8MW co-generation plant, expected more intensive energy users to become involved in co-generation.

Co-generation plants use waste, liquid or gas to generate electricity and so lower their power costs while reducing environmental harm.

The co-generation plant was funded under the IDC’s Green Industries Strategic Business Unit. The SACC, which is owned by Argentina’s Andina Group, would repay the IDC over 10 years.

In addition to SACC the IDC supported the Ipsa Group’s co-generation plant, which was the first independent power producer using gas from Sasol’s pipeline to produce electricity and steam. It also supported the KC Energy plant that produces steam and will produce electricity as a cogenerated product.

With the co-generation plant comprising four furnaces, SACC is expected to cut its electricity bill of R100 million by 15 percent a year.

The additional 8MW capacity would enable the SACC plant to operate at full production, producing up to 100 000 tons a year of calcium carbide.

SACC’s plant created 300 direct jobs and 1 000 indirect jobs in raw material production, supply and logistics.

In the production process, locally sourced lime and coke is processed using locally generated electricity in an electric arc furnace to produce calcium carbide.

Half of the production was exported, Qhena said.

Calcium carbide production is an energy-intensive business with SACC using 50MW, or 50 percent of Newcastle’s power capacity.

Roberto Carmona, a director at the firm, said the 8MW plant was a part of the long-term strategy for the company to become innovative amid increasing costs.