Major vendor to supply process automation solutions to SA giant

Saturday, 08 February, 2003

Emerson Process Management has won the initial contract from a South African chemical and engineering conglomerate for a multi-million dollar gas conversion project.

Sasol, one of the largest industrial companies in South Africa, has selected Emerson Process Management as its "top vendor" for process automation solutions at all Sasol-owned 'greenfield' projects over the next five years. The company says it is planning to spend some $US3.5 billion in capital expenditures over the next five-year period.

With this environmental designation, Sasol has awarded Emerson its first contract - to supply the PlantWeb digital plant architecture and DeltaV digital automation system for a gas conversion project at one of the company's chemical plants.

The Sasol Group headquartered in Johannesburg, is one of the leading wealth creators in South Africa. It has embarked on an international strategy that has seen a vigorous growth trend in recent years with its foreign and export sales amounting to 56 per cent of total sales. These technological breakthroughs have given the company a competitive edge resulting in the manufacture and export of more than 200 fuel and chemical products in its South African plants. Other joint ventures and production plants exist in Europe, China, the Middle East, U.S., Canada, as well as other African countries.

The selection of Emerson as "top vendor" was a part of Sasol's Netgain initiative, under which the company evaluated all of its major systems suppliers to identify opportunities to reduce total cost of ownership across a number of equipment categories. The company recently said in a press release, "the naming of the PlantWeb architecture represents a change from traditional distributed control systems to the proven, innovative digital plant architecture."

According to company sources, reliability, functionality, cost of ownership and other key performance indicators, plus commercial issues, featured strongly in the selection "because process variability and downtime impact profit directly.

"We have significant capital investments planned, plus improving and sustaining our operations is essential," commented Suran Pillay, chief control and instrumentation engineer at Sasol. "Suppliers must add maximum value from the inception of projects through the life of the plant."

For its first project, Emerson and its South African representative, Alpret Control Specialists, will provide control and automation technology for two reformer trains being designed and constructed under license by Fluor Daniel at Sasol Chemical's gas conversion project in Sasolburg. Reformer trains are part of the processing technology used to convert natural gas to reformed gas.

The gas conversion project is part of an initiative recently launched by Sasol to build an 865-kilometer pipeline from neighbouring Mozambique and supply reformed natural gas to the industrial heart of South Africa, replacing coal-based synthesised gas.

Another division of Sasol, Sastech is managing the gas conversion project. The processes are safety critical, and provide gas feedstock for major downstream processing plants, including plants for the production of ammonia, waxes and n-Butanol. The company says it is important to ensure enhanced plant availability, through predictive maintenance, to maintain the crucially important gas feed to these downstream customers.

Sastech also selected PlantWeb architecture and the DeltaV digital control system for this project. According to the company, key to the selection were the built-in redundancy capability of DeltaV systems and also the benefit of predictive maintenance available using a 900-point AMS system that interrogates field devices using HART digital communications.

Emerson and Alpret will provide engineering services, including project management of the process automation solution, plus hardware and operator display design and configuration. Documentation, installation supervision, and training will also be provided.

"Sasol is an innovative, results-driven company, and being selected as their 'Top Vendor' for greenfield projects over the next five years is especially gratifying," commented John Berra, Emerson executive vice president with responsibility for the process management business.

According to Berra, "The selection of Emerson is a strong endorsement of the business value of our PlantWeb architecture."

The company has concluded that it is "looking forward to delivering the competitive edge that they (Sasol) are seeking in process manufacturing."

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