The recent completion of Sasol’s nine-year, R14bn mine replacement programme will provide the company’s Secunda synthetic fuels plant with feedstock until 2050. It, however, also marks the end of an era. The Secunda plant uses coal-to-liquids (CTL) conversion technology and is the world’s largest by many orders of magnitude. Despite being highly profitable, the plant will be the last that Sasol will ever run. "Categorically, we won’t do it again," says Sasol joint president and CEO Stephen Cornell. "This is our last coal-to-liquids operation for the world."

Sasol Mining is SA’s third largest coal producer, producing 40-million tonnes of coal annually. Apart from its chemical products, the CTL plant produces, on average, 60-million barrels of liquid fuel for Sasol to sell into the South African market each year. But there are a lot of reasons why Sasol would not replace the plant, Cornell tells Business Day. "The basic business case is challenged, in terms of making a return on...

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