Sasol steps up reduction targets
• Synthetic fuels and chemicals group spells out its net-zero timetable
Sasol, whose Secunda plant was once singled out by activists as the largest single point source of carbon dioxide emissions in the world, has tripled its target to cut emissions by 2030, as pressure mounts on SA to reduce its dependence on dirty fuels. The synthetic fuels and chemicals group said on Wednesday it will seek to achieve net zero by 2050.
Sasol, whose Secunda plant was once singled out by activists as the largest single-point source of carbon dioxide emissions in the world, has tripled its target to cut emissions by 2030, as pressure mounts on SA to reduce its dependence on dirty fuels.
The synthetic fuels and chemicals group said on Wednesday it aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2030 and will seek to achieve net-zero two decades later. It previously aimed to cut 10% by 2030. Shareholder activist group Just Share said it would have liked to see more detail on how it will reach the goals.
“Evidence of climate change is there for all of us to see,” Sasol CEO Fleetwood Grobler said. A transition to a low-carbon future will be funded from available internal resources. It’s “incumbent upon all of us to address it”.
Sasol plans to spend R15bnR25bn to transform its energy and chemicals business into an environmentally friendly one by 2030. It wants to reduce its use of coal in producing fuels, something that has made it the country’s biggest emitter after Eskom, the power utility that produces most of its electricity from coal.
The announcement came as businesses in SA are increasingly trying to reduce their carbon footprint, while the country faces the possibility of being excluded from markets due to the carbon-intensive nature of its exports. “Based on detailed assessments and modelling, our 2030 target can be delivered without divestments and offsets but through the direct decarbonisation of our existing assets,” said Grobler. Plans to meet the target include investing in renewables and a gradual shift to natural gas.
But Tracey Davies, an executive director of Just Share, said the new targets are contingent on Sasol finding affordable gas to replace coal at its Secunda plant in Mpumalanga. “We were definitely hoping to see more detail in this announcement about the viability of that. Even the previous target of 10% relied mostly on the sourcing of gas, and also then Sasol was saying ‘we are not sure yet whether we are going to be able to source that gas’,” Davies said, with the company also talking about importing liquefied natural gas (LNG).
“But there is not sufficient detail to enable shareholders to tell how feasible that is and over what time frame.” Beyond 2030, Sasol said it will have more than one viable pathway to get to its net-zero ambition by 2050.
Options available include transforming its Southern Africa value chain by shifting its feedstock away from coal towards more transition gas, and then green hydrogen and sustainable carbon in the longer term as economies adapt to the changes.
In recent years, Sasol has come under intense pressure from activists over its emissions, being called upon to explain how it is aligning its activities with the goals of the Paris Agreement, an environmental accord to strengthen the global response to climate change. Its Secunda plant, where fuel is produced from coal, has been singled out by Greenpeace as the largest single-point source of carbon dioxide emissions anywhere on Earth.