State-owned freight logistics firm Transnet plans to launch a tender in 2020 for SA’s first terminal to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) at Richards Bay port, with first gas expected to land in 2024, a senior official said on Thursday.

SA is pushing to diversify its energy sources away from coal, which supplies more than 90% of its electricity, and to expand capacity to reduce power cuts that have hit growth.

Transnet will lead the project after the World Bank’s International Finance Corp pledged $2m to help finalise the design, finance, construction and operation plans.

The project requires re-purposing existing pipelines to transport gas between Durban and Johannesburg.

“We are hoping second quarter or third quarter 2020 for the request for quotations,” which is part of the tender process, said Jabulani Sithole, a Transnet oil and gas business manager.

“Based on the work we have done we believe that we are able to land the gas in SA by 2024,” Sithole said.

He said it was vital to secure new gas supplies as Sasol, which pipes the bulk of SA’s gas needs from Mozambique, had flagged it would face supply constraints from 2023 due to maturing fields at Temane and Pande.

A Sasol spokesperson confirmed the supply deficit scenario.

A pre-feasibility study would determine costs of the LNG terminal project, Sithole said, adding that Transnet would seek to attract LNG suppliers such as Shell and BP.

“The final cost of the gas will be determined in the negotiations between the gas supplier and off-takers,” said Sithole, adding that a special-purpose vehicle would be formed to help fund the project through debt and equity financing.

Transnet aims to use its existing gas pipelines and rail infrastructure to lower local transport and distribution costs.

Angola and Mozambique, where US energy firm Anadarko Petroleum in June approved Africa’s biggest LNG project worth $20bn, were potential LNG suppliers, Sithole said.

Sithole said the regasification terminal could be on land or a Floating Storage Regasification Unit serving Richards Bay and other ports, including Coega where plans for a gas-fired power plant were being considered.

“We are looking at all options,” he said.

France’s Total said in February it had found about one-billion barrels of hydrocarbon resources, including a significant gas condensate resource, off SA’s east coast.