S. Africa studies downstream petrochemicals

Jan 10, 1997 01:00 AM

After a year of intense discussion about the future of South Africa's upstream petrochemical industry, attention will switch next month to developing an export-driven downstream industry. Representatives of government, business and labour in the Department of Trade and Industry's petrochemicals, plastics and synthetic fibres "cluster'' group will meet in Pretoria for their second plenary session to outline priorities for the future. The government is also expected to finalise the appointment of a consultant to undertake an in-depth, nine-month study into the petrochemicals sector. DTI sector director David Walwyn told that various working groups which have been examining different aspects of the industry will report back at the February 6 plenary meeting. Their recommendations will include the need for a central bureau to provide information to exporters on issues such as the cheapest way of moving materials and marketing. Trevor Munday, chief executive of chemicals group Polifin said this kind of support was essential. The future direction of downstream petrochemical industries is also a key factor in determining how and when upstream producers cope with a looming shortage of ethylene. Munday said Polifin -- a pivotal player in the debate -- was evaluating various proposals by the coastal refineries, Mossgas and Sasol. It would make its decision "by the end of March,'' he said, with an investment of about 6 billion rand envisaged. All the major oil and petrochemical companies have agreed that Polifin should take the lead in any consortium, he added. The emphasis would be on olefins rather than aromatics.

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