Energy group Renergen says it is making ‘strong progress’ in commissioning phase 1 of its Virginia Gas Project.
The Virginia Gas Project is the only onshore petroleum plant in South Africa, with the site covering an area that includes Welkom, Virginia, and Theunissen.
It is owned and operated by Renergen through its subsidiary company Tetra4. Renergen has previously estimated its helium reserve could be as large as 9.74 billion cubic metres, more extensive than the known reserves of the entire US.
While helium is perhaps best known for its use in balloons, its benefits go far beyond this. Helium is considered highly valuable for its use in medical scanners, space travel, and superconductors. Specific unique properties make it an essential component in manufacturing fibre-optic cables, microchips, and other electronic equipment.
It is also used to inflate car airbags and in high concentrations in deep-sea diving tanks.
In a shareholder statement on Tuesday (5 May), the group noted that it was currently in the preparation stage, with all safety steps being taken to ensure no issues.
“The cold boxes are currently in the process of being purged and pre-cooled using liquid nitrogen, which is an important process in preparing the units for acceptance of gas from the field in the coming week. A major advantage of using nitrogen to cool the system is that it simultaneous purges the system of any oxygen-rich air, which significantly reduces risks associated with fires during startup.
“Further testing is underway as part of the commissioning process, and the company will inform the market as milestones are reached. We have already completed and commissioned fire protection, Instrument air systems and various smaller subsystems. The conduction oil system is the next major item to be completed for process unit start-up.”
Renergen chief executive Stefano Marani added that his team is being ‘extremely thorough and diligent’ in ensuring every step in the commissioning process is done correctly.
“A key focus area which has been successfully completed is the testing and retesting of the fire systems, particularly in light of all the recent plant failures globally. Seeing the plant at cryogenic temperatures is such an amazing sight, knowing that this is soon to become the first commercial plant of its kind in South Africa,” he said.