Refreshed, refuelled and reignited by the passionate discussion & debate about the challenging African continent, delegates have returned to the Pelindaba conference auditorium after a brief interval to continue the morning’s presentations at the gasworld African Conference 2008.

Organised to highlight the drivers for growth and the challenges ahead in this rapidly developing continent, the conference began brightly this morning with insightful performances from Afrox’s Shouab Fareed, guest speaker Kuseni Dlamini, and an opening speech from the SACGA’s Albert Spencer.

Spencer had described the rapid development across the continent and the challenge for Africa as ‘very viable’, while Dlamini, Executive Chairman of the Richards Bay Coal Terminal, explained how knowledge and expertise is just as important in Africa as the need for resources.

Dlamini commented, “I believe Africa needs to build up the knowledge and expertise in particular areas and industries. Without those things and without the physical infrastructure you cannot get things right.”

The discourse and debate continued with the latter morning session, chaired by Laurie Raison of both the SACGA and Air Liquide and including presentations from Vincent Govender of Sasol and Christopher Peck of Dominion Gas.

Chairing the session, Raison said, “It’s my great pleasure this morning to introduce to you Vincent Govender from Sasol synfuels. Vincent, over to you.”

Discussing the company’s synfuel operations within South Africa, Govender opened by saying, “Good morning delegates. This morning I’d like to enlighten you a little more about the synfuel operations of Sasol within South Africa.”

Sasol synfuels is responsible for the conversion of coal to fuels and Govender then proceeded to draw attention to the company’s activities across South Africa and the world-leading processes and technologies behind these. Govender also referred to Sasol’s world-largest ASU and the process technology that the company employs throughout it’s activities.

Dominion Gas, sponsors of the conference’s Cultural Evening on the 11th June, are active in the field of industrial gas and offshore business around the world and the company’s expertise in this field was evident as Peck took to the stage to present.

Briefly discussing the current market dynamics of the industrial gases industry Peck explained, “I think we all go to a conference like this to go home a little wiser than when we came. I want to talk to you abut a very, very exciting business, the industrial gas business. I’ve always found it very exciting and stimulating.”

“I’ve been in this business a long time and I want to talk about the challenges that we all face in this industry. I think we’re all aware of the daily hike in oil prices, but what is this doing? It’s really stimulating the industry. There’s lots of exciting developments going on,” he added enthusiastically.

The Spiritus Group’s John Raquet rounded-off the session with an analysis of Africa in terms of its industrial gas business, looking at the market and the gases potential. Raquet began with an introduction to the industry and an overview of the global gases business, before discussing the African gases market in-depth by region and the immense opportunities for growth that exist

These include opportunities in both the on-sites and merchant markets and Raquet explained this further as he said, “The African market as we see it is valued at $1.3bn in 2007. Traditionally in Africa most plants have been captive. What are the drivers for growth in the African market?”

“Well clearly the metals demand. The growing infrastructural needs in the region, high oil prices, CTL and GTL, there’s Nigeria – people are talking about operations in North Africa.”

“How about the merchant market? There are regional variances across Africa, not surprisingly. There is a real mix between basic industrial gas applications to sophisticated calibration gases. Some of those gas mixtures are highly valuable gases,” Raquet explained.

He continued to highlight the abundant drivers for growth and noted, “Right across the continent you could say that many countries are still underdeveloped in terms of the gases market. That provides an opportunity for all of us to help develop these.”

“Our view is that the African market is going to be the highest growth market in the next few years.”

Positive vibe
Raquet had previously encouraged the positive vibe for the industrial gas industry as a whole, when offering Spiritus’ view of the global gases business. This underlined the continuity of growth experienced in the gas business and the room for further manouvre in the future.

Raquet enthused, “First of all, our industry. Our industry has got some very favourable dynamics, first of all over the last 25 years it’s continued to grow. There’s never been a drop really in this gas business in 25 years.”

“The predictions are that the industrial gas business is going to continue to grow strongly. There’s still room for efficiency gain, there is always room to improve you operations.”

The changing face of the energy sector around the world is likely to provide increased industrial gas demand, rather than have any negative impact – according to Spiritus.

“We’re really well suited to address the increasing world focus on the environment,” Raquet proudly noted.

“Basically over the last couple of years there’s been a rise in oil prices. Over time there’s been a link between the increase in oil prices and the increase in demand for industrial gases. They’re all favourable dynamics for our industry,” he added.

After an engaging Q&A session to close the morning’s presentations, delegates exited for the first day lunch, sponsored by Inox India Ltd. The conference continues again in the afternoon- a session chaired by Roy Irani of Gas Package Solutions (GPS) and with speakers such as Maghreb Oxygene’s Laila Benali, presenting the Northern Africa gases market from an independent company perspective.

gasworld notes that all these presentations and much more will be available to view within the next few weeks, when the online conference videos are added to the gasworld website.