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Sasol opens new South Africa polyethylene plant

Sasol's new ethylene purification unit in Sasolburg, South Africa, was officially inaugurated on Tuesday by Sasol CEO David Constable and South African Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr. Rob Davies.

The new unit is officially known as the ethylene purification unit 5 (EPU5).

Located at the Sasol Polymers plant in Sasolburg, the R1.9 billion ethylene purification unit aims to address the growing demand for polyethylene (PE) material. The plant will also ensure better utilization of Sasol's existing downstream polyethylene facilities.

"Through the installation of the new ethylene splitter, considerable production capacity has been freed up to produce more ethylene," said Constable. "In so doing, our investment in EPU5, together with a new compressor unit in Secunda, will provide the South African plastics manufacturing industry with an additional 47 000 tons of polyethylene annually."

EPU5 is already in operation phase, according to Sasol. Half of the additional 47 000 tons of polyethylene will be reached within the next six months, while the plant is expected to reach full capacity by 2017.

"The South African plastics industry is a significant contributor to the national economy," said Marinus Sieberhagen, managing director of Sasol Polymers. "Local demand for polyethylene polymers continues to grow at a rate of 4 to 5% annually. With a rise in new plant capacities and the need to be globally competitive, we recognized the necessity to expand both polymer and ethylene production."

The plant was also designed to reduce hydrocarbon flaring, which reduces the carbon footprint of Sasol's total ethylene production capacity in South Africa, according to the company.

Local engineering and construction service providers were sub-contracted to execute significant portions of the work. This amounted to approximately 4,6 million man hours worked and resulted in knowledge transfer and skills development in construction and advanced welding techniques.

"At the height of construction, we were able to create 1000 construction jobs, predominately sourced from the local community in Sasolburg," said Constable.

"For us at Sasol, this project not only illustrates our unwavering focus on unlocking the full potential of our chemical assets, but it also demonstrates our commitment to our customers to ensure improved supply, and our belief in, and support for, the communities in which we live and work."

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