31 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Sable Chemicals to Raise Ammonium Imports

Photo: Sylvain Liechti/UN Photo
File Photo.

SABLE Chemicals will increase ammonium imports to 5 000 tonnes per month to augment local production, chairman Mr Misheck Kachere said in an interview last week. "We will be gradually increasing our imports from the current 2 000 to 5 000 tonnes and that will give us a total of 10 000 tonnes per month including our local output," he said.

Mr Kachere said raising imports was a short-term strategy before the firm embarks on producing ammonium from coal-bed methane which will replace the electrolysis system.

Mr Kachere said the imports will be mainly from South Africa. With 10 000 tonnes of ammonium, the local fertiliser industry can manufacture ammonium nitrate for export markets.

Ammonia is a critical raw material for the manufacture of AN fertiliser.

"After processing 10 000 tonnes of ammonium, 30 percent to 40 percent of the output can be exported," said Mr Kachere. "That can be a very viable arrangement."

Sable is planning to decommission its electrolysis plant -- used to separate water oxygen for the hydrogen it requires in the production of ammonia in the near future.

The electrolysis plant is the major factor behind Sable Chemicals' accumulation of the unsustainable electricity bill. The plant consumes up to 70 megawatts every month.

The plant, which started operating in 1972, is now old and expensive to run, apart from its high consumption of power.

A feasibility study of the coal gas project was completed in November last year and the results were that the project is technically and economically viable, the company said in June this year.

Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy has expressed concern over Government's failure to pay US$39 million in electricity subsidies for Sable.

In its post-Budget analysis, the committee, chaired by Mr Edward Chindori-Chininga, said it was critical for Government to honour its obligations.

"The committee observed with concern Government's commitment to subsidise Sable Chemicals electricity debt of US$57 million dating back to 2009," said the report.

"Government is supposed to pay US$39 million. However, no subsidy has been received since then and nothing has been allocated in the Budget to pay for the subsidy.

The committee recommends that Sable Chemicals and Government should pay part of the debt because this is essential in reducing Zesa's operational costs. Zesa cut off power supplies to Sable last month over a ballooning power bill."

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