Driving sustainable air quality

Our ability to anticipate and respond to the changing regulatory and policy landscape is one of our most material challenges, particularly in the context of the air quality legislation applicable to our existing plants in South Africa.

Improving air quality at our operations

We remain committed to compliance and to promoting sustainable ambient air quality improvement at all our operations. We continue to entrench leading environmental indicators at all our operations, in line with our proactive incident prevention philosophy. We investigate emission incidents to ensure the Group-wide sharing of lessons learnt and associated optimisation of applicable control regimes.

Meeting minimum emission standards

  • In South Africa, legislated minimum emission standards (MES) required that our plants meet existing plant standards for point sources by April 2015. Subsequently, more stringent new plant standards must also be met by April 2020. We already meet most of the MES for existing plants, and we believe we are on track to concurrently meet both the remaining existing and new plant standards for all MES, with the exception of boiler plant sulphur dioxide (S02) by April 2025. Our roadmaps, in certain respects, therefore aim for an integrated solution for purposes of meeting both new and existing plant standards and we discuss these in more detail below.
  • We are executing our committed air quality improvement roadmaps and our community-based offsets whilst simultaneously advancing technology assessments for certain challenging standards where no feasible solutions currently exist to meet the requirements. In February 2018, we communicated at the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee Environmental Affairs (PPCEA) session that our roadmaps are progressing as planned. Our presentation in this regard can be downloaded from the website http://pmg-assets.s3-website-euwest- 1.amazonaws.com/180206sasol.pdf. To ensure success and enable compliance, we continue to fund and commit capital to environmental compliance projects. We have a capital allocation framework to assist us in allocating such capital and prioritising capital allocation towards the retention of Sasol’s licence to operate. Details regarding capital allocation and utilisation are included in the annual financial statements.
  • While we continue to make good progress, we will be reliant on further postponements to 2025 in order to enable the safe and successful execution of the associated projects within the committed timeframes, and to seek a longer-term solution for the challenging new plant standard for SO2 emissions. Sasol’s air quality impact on the surrounding airshed is assessed as part of our postponement application and these reports, together with further information, are available via the following link at https://www.srk.co.za/en/za-sasol-postponements. These assessments confirm that Sasol’s emissions do not cause exceedances of the national ambient air quality standards. We have, however, identified that a significant concern in the vicinity of our plants is the high ambient concentration of particulate matter (PM) (including smoke), which is especially evident during winter months as a result of domestic coal burning for heating and cooking. We provide more detail about the opportunity for Sasol to help improve overall air quality in our section on beyond-the-factory-fence initiatives.
  • Over this past year, we have made significant progress to meet the new plant standards at our Secunda facility, including the successful commissioning of seven regenerative thermal oxidisers as part of the reduction of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the tar value chain. Additionally VOC abatement equipment has been installed on a tank to reduce emissions. The installation of medium frequency inverters in a boiler is under way and is aimed at helping to reduce particulate matter emissions, as well as high frequency and high voltage pulse energisation inverters are being installed for testing.
  • For Sasolburg Operations, of the more than 100 stacks on site, only seven stacks (thermal oxidation and boilers) do not meet existing plant standards as yet. For Steam Station 2, both existing and new plant standards for PM will be met by 2020. During the year, we have installed nitrous oxide and particulate matter abatement technologies on a boiler and testing of the technology is in progress.
  • Sasol has raised the challenges that it faces in meeting the new plant standards in relation to SO2 standards with government and in the PPCEA. It is important to note that the measured levels of SO2 in the airsheds where we operate are well below the internationally accepted health standard requirements. As mentioned, at some of the government engagement sessions, presentations were delivered in which Sasol explains the challenge it faces in complying with new plant standards; however we remain committed to finding sustainable solutions to address this and to advancing our technology assessments, either alone or in collaboration with others. Our presentations also reflect how Sasol, in the meantime, continues to reduce its emissions through the implementation of our onsite air quality improvement roadmaps, including our community-based offsets.
  • We conduct detailed measurement and monitoring of our operations’ emissions to ensure we understand and adequately manage the impact of our facilities on air quality and duly report on our compliance. In addition, Sasol publishes its data on both the South African Air Quality Information System (SAAQIS) (http://www.saaqis.org.za/) and on the South African National Atmospheric Emission Inventory System (NAEIS) (https://saaelip.environment.gov.za/SAAELIP/NAEIS_FACILITY/Pages/ Main/Login.aspx). The SAAQIS site is open to the public and reflects overall trends on all emissions. NAEIS is the online national reporting platform for government for air pollutant emission inventories which Sasol updates every year before end March as required by the National Environmental Management Air Quality Act of 2004. Sasol submits monitoring data to the authorities as well as our annual compliance reports as per the requirements of our AELs.
  • As part of our prior postponement applications, an independent third party modelling study was conducted to evaluate the ambient impact of hydrogen sulphide emissions (H2S emissions) from the Secunda Synfuels sulphur recovery plant. Predicted daily H2S concentrations were compared against the World Health Organisation (WHO) (2000) 24-hour health-based guideline. No exceedances of the guideline were found. Sasol took this one step further. Dr Willie van Niekerk of Infotox was consulted and the Sasol H2S predicted results compared favourably on an even more conservative health effect screening level as indicated in peer reviewed literature.

Proposed amendments to the air quality regulatory framework (the National Framework)

Following our own internal analysis and ongoing technology investigations, Sasol has participated this past year in a stakeholder engagement process in relation to proposed amendments to the National Air Quality Framework and Minimum Emission Standards regulations under the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act, with a focus on contributing to the advancement of the framework in diverse respects. Sasol supports alternative mechanisms that would enable sustainable improvement in ambient air quality while addressing the sulphur dioxide compliance challenge. In the medium term, Sasol relies on obtaining postponements together with other mechanisms such as air quality offsets to address our compliance challenges. We remain concerned about the limitations of the postponement mechanism, while proposed changes to the regulatory framework could also negatively impact Sasol’s approach to placing reliance on compliance extensions beyond 2025. We also continue to engage with the regulatory authorities to provide for the legislated recognition of offsets. Where we are unable to rely on mechanisms available in law or to find appropriate feasible solutions, we may, of necessity, elect to decommission or mothball essential parts of our plant for purposes of mitigating the potential non-compliance risks.

Improving air quality in our communities

Sasol’s air emission offset intervention is based on a diverse set of activities, which are informed by a detailed baseline assessment conducted in 2017. These activities are contained in area specific programmes aligned with the offset implementation plan.

The aim of the programme is to gain experience and understanding in conducting offset programmes while continuously improving the quality of life, including air quality improvements for the communities benefiting from the interventions.

The programme is inherently intended to grow and adapt over time as experience, successes, shortcomings and learnings are obtained. Sasol strives for a collaborative, constructive relationship where all parties play a meaningful role toward the successful execution of the offset implementation plan. For this reason, much emphasis is placed on ongoing stakeholder engagement and community participation as part of this plan.

Based on the result of pilot studies, better insulation of reconstruction and development programme (RDP) houses coupled with improved cooking and heating methods reduces households’ need to use solids fuels like coal and wood for energy, thereby reducing air emissions, specifically particulate matter.

Currently non-attainment to the ambient air quality standard for particulate matter smaller than 10 microns in diameter (PM10) exists in the Zamdela airshed. Moreover, the baseline study highlighted the noticeable contribution of waste burning and veldfires to the particulate matter load in the Zamdela airshed. The baseline findings were echoed through stakeholder engagement with the communities residing in Zamdela, Amelia and Iraq. This ultimately informed the inclusion of appropriate interventions focusing on waste and veldfires in the offset implementation plan.

These interventions included the improvement in waste collection through the introduction of more than 70 waste skips in the affected communities. To date in excess of 10 000 tons have been successfully removed from these areas. In order to limit emissions from uncontrolled veldfires, Sasol has deployed a rapid intervention firefighting vehicle to assist local authorities with veldfires in the Sasolburg region. Furthermore, Sasol has facilitated the development of proactive measures such as grass cutting in order to reduce the severity of pollution emanating from these veldfires.

The Mpumalanga Department of Education has approved the rollout of a pollution-focused training and awareness programme in up to 27 primary schools.

Atmospheric Emissions

Atmospheric Emissions

Sasol’s actual spend on offset projects for 2016 and 2017 was R19 million. This ramped up considerably during 2018 to a total of R55 million for 2018. The budget for subsequent years will be confirmed as better information becomes available in the detailed cost model which Sasol is developing.

These projects referred to above primarily relate to our committed roadmaps required to meet the promulgated new plant standards. In addition, Sasol adopted a voluntary internal target to reduce specific VOC emissions by 80% by 2020, from a 2009 baseline. Due to an unforeseen issue which prevented us from completing a shut-down tie-in during the year, one of the projects on our roadmap will only be completed in 2021. While this setback will regrettably delay attaining the target by a year, we are pleased that the projected reductions from these projects are anticipated to exceed the 80% targeted reductions, with a reduction of about 40% already achieved by the end of 2018.

our air footprint
  • Large-scale maintenance shutdown at Natref Operations, as well as a statutory shutdown at Secunda Operations took place during the reporting period, impacting our atmospheric releases, as do changes in the feedstock composition and utilisation over the period.
  • As a result of the progress with our air quality roadmap, VOC emissions have reduced from 41,80 kilotons in 2017 to 27,74 kilotons over the reporting period. This significant reduction is due to the commissioning of several abatement projects during the last 12 months.
  • Our total NOx emissions of 147 kilotons (kt), showed marginal improvement, down slightly from 152 kt in 2017.
  • The reduction in total SOx emissions to 189 kt, down from 202 kt in 2017, was a result of reduced coal sulphur content.
  • Total particulate (fly ash) emissions remained relatively constant at 10 kt compared with 10 kt in 2017.
  • The atmospheric emission licences (AELs) for some of our operations have been reviewed and renewed, as part of an ongoing process.


First source apportionment measurements and quality of life assessment has been completed.
Source apportionment results confirmed that the impact of dust from unsurfaced roads is minimal, therefore this option will not be considered further.
Insulation of 24 serviced informal houses with polyurethane foam together with a stove swop in Lebohang has been completed. Further measurements such as the summer temperature impact measurements and indoor air quality is being conducted.
Grass cutting and veld fire management activities are ongoing by the Secunda Synfuels Operations emergency management team, with their scope of activities enhanced to support greater mitigation of veld fires as part of the offset plan.
The census to identify the eligible households is in progress and contracting with the households will commence in January 2018. Business activities are progressing to gear up for implementation, starting with approximately 500 to 700 houses between July 2017 and June 2018.
The target audiences are the communities of eMbalenhle and Lebohang where offsets are implemented and 27 primary schools in Govan Mbeki Municipality. A questionnaire was compiled and will be used in the pre-assessment phase of the campaign.


Distribution of stoves and gas heaters 24 households exchanged their coal stove with either a Kitchen King stove or an LPG stove and a gas heater.


Grass cutting and veld fire management activities | Firebreaks were prepared at Sasol conveyor belts and grass cutting was noted in Secunda town in Zone 3 and 5.


Education and awareness campaign training of field officers for pre-assessment door to door campaign in eMbalenhle.

eMbalenhle North: Buyani primary school
Lebohang: Chief Ampie Mayisa high school

Education and awareness campaign training of field officers for pre-assessment door to door campaign in eMbalenhle.

Ambient air quality monitoring stations at eMbalenhle and Lebohang

Sasolburg and Natref delivering on our approved offset plans

First source apportionment measurements and quality of life assessment has been completed.
20 staff members from the Fire and Traffic Departments trained. 20 vehicles were tested during a practical session and eight failed the recommended emission levels test for the specific vehicle. Vehicles that fail the test are required to undertake the necessary maintenance interventions. Vehicle testing is now routinely conducted by the local authorities.
Rapid response vehicle handed over to the Municipality in November 2017. Vehicle being employed to actively fight fires.
Waste removal piloting activities within Zamdela were successful and the number of sites will be expanded to 100. A total of 100 skips have been placed in 2018. Approximately 10 000 tons of waste has been removed from the community. Our RDP housing insulation programme has commenced in eMbalenhle, near Secunda, and we have met our target of completing 500 houses by 30 June 2018.
An order is being placed for content development and the implementation of the education plan in schools and the broader community.

Sasolburg and Natref

Veld fire management project
Sasolburg and Natref
Delivery of the rapid intervention vehicle