The withering mining town of Selebi-Phikwe may be the suitable candidate for the location of the much anticipated Coal and Liquids project, it was bandied in Parliament on Wednesday.
The multi-billion Pula project is earmarked to reassure the country’s fuel sufficiency with the potential of becoming a net exporter of petroleum in the southern region and create jobs.
Already the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security is inundated with requests and proposals from the private sector to develop the project with Botswana Oil Limited offered the responsibilityas the anchor customer.
“The location of the CTL plant will be greatly influenced by the investors who will have won the tender taking into consideration the cost analysis, the availability of raw materials and the distanceof the source materials to the plant to keep production costs low and manageable,” indicated Minister of Infrastructure and Technology Nonofo Molefhi.
“Therefore it will be the decision of the prospective investors whether to accommodate Selebi-Phikwe as their investment zone,” Molefhi said, responding to concerns from Selebi-Phikwe West Member of Parliament Dithapelo Keorapetse.
Molefhi agrees with Keorapetse over the plight of Selebi-Phikwe. Molefhi is theSelebi-Phikwe East MP.
Keorapetse is adamant the town stands a better chance for the location of the CTL plant considering that it has been transporting coal from Morupule.
Currently Botswana imports all her petroleum requirements, approximately 1.2 billion litres annually, from South Africa with small quantities coming from Namibia and Mozambique.
“The CTL project requires substantial investment. It is estimated that it could cost between USD3-4 billion over a four to five-year construction period,” Molefhi said. “This would replace the current importation of approximately USD1 billion of petroleum products annually.”
The Minister acknowledged the importance of the project to the economy and its contribution to the diversification process.
The Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security has developed a Pre-Qualification criteria to be used to select companies that can be facilitated in order to realise the project.
“The Pre-Qualification Notice will be in the media soon. The project will be private sector-led with government’s role limited to being that of being a facilitator,” Molefhi said.
The CTL project entails converting coal into fuel using processes of indirect liquefaction and direct liquefaction.
“Developing coal to liquids is a mega project by any global standards and involves the integration of complex technology and process plants to achieve a successful project delivery and commissioning. Subject to the technology being selected, environmental considerations for, example emissions and water usage, are crucial,” the Minister said, insisting that currently the ministry was at “concept stage with no detailed studies is yet”.
The project schedule and timelines will become realistic once the consultants are on board and “that will be this month”, Molefhi reassured.
While he could not be drawn into discussing the job creation the facility would offer upon completion, Molefhi estimated a total of around 15 000 people during the construction phase.