While the inclusion of the $10-billion (R82,6 billion) oil refinery project, dubbed Project Mthombo, in the National Development Plan was welcomed, the plan to delay the decision around implementation to 2016 was not.
This was the view of both PetroSA CEO, Nosizwe Nokwe-Macamo and MEC of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Mcebisi Jonas, who both committed themselves to push for earlier time frames on the project.
Nokwe-Macamo said one of the main challenges facing the petro-chemical industry in South Africa in coming years was the switch over to Clean Fuels 2, or EU5 standard fuels, which was scheduled for implementation in 2017.
This meant that, while the country would be running on cleaner, more environmentally friendly fuels, existing refineries would have to undergo significant modifications in order to produce the new fuels, which would further increase the need for imported refined product.
“Project Mthombo is the only refinery that would be designed to produce EU 5 level fuels from the start,” she said.
Nokwe-Macamo said SA could not afford to postpone the decision on Project Mthombo, as there was already a shortage of supply of liquid fuel refinery capacity.
“We do not want to find ourselves in the same situation with liquid fuels as we did during the electricity crisis… we don’t want to go down that road,” she said.
Nokwe-Macamo said Coega was the ideal location for the new refinery, especially in relation to the Port of Ngqura in terms of providing export infrastructure for the refined fuels to neighbouring countries and the SADC countries as a whole.
Jonas said there was a need to push for the decision around Project Mthombo to be taken immediately.
“We need to take a stand against taking a decision in 2016 and push collectively that a decision be taken now,” he said.
Jonas said there also needed to be a strong focus on local infrastructure and skills development within the region to accommodate the refinery once it was in place.
Jonas said it was also important to build a climate that allowed for investment to take place, saying that the two metros of the province, Namely Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City, did not have a very good track record in this regard.