Sasol flags rise of Covid-19 cases in group

JOHANNESBURG – Petrochemicals giant Sasol said yesterday that the increase of Covid-19 cases within its group would likely impact its operations as it announced that the opening of a unit in its Lake Charles Chemicals Project (LCCP) would be delayed by a month.

Sasol’s Covid-19 confirmed cases have climbed to 774 since the outbreak of the pandemic, most of which were in South Africa, where two employees had died, the group said. But Sasol said the increase in the infection rates was in line with the trend in South Africa, and up to now, there had been no material impact on operations.

“The continuous increase in Covid-19 infections within Sasol could potentially impact our operations in the near-term. While we have implemented all regulatory requirements and have the necessary controls in place, we will continue to actively monitor and mitigate the impact,” said the group.

Covid-19 infections in the country have risen to 394948 and the total number of deaths stood at 5940 by Wednesday.

Sasol said that the opening of the low-density polyethylene (LDPE) plant at the LCCP had been delayed to the end of October instead of September as previously stated.

“Some challenges were experienced in the completion of the restoration process, resulting in a slight delay to the previous market guidance of a beneficial operation date before September 2020,” said the company.

The LDPE unit was damaged by an explosion and fire in January, and was in the final stages of commissioning and start-up when the incident happened. Sasol said that the LCCP’s overall project completion was at 99percent and capital expenditure amounted to $12.7billion (R208.64bn).

Sasol, which announced the sale of non-core assets as part of a plan to cushion the blow of the Covid-19 pandemic, also said total production from the Secunda Synfuels Operations (SSO) was 3percent lower than last year. The SSO was negatively affected in the fourth quarter by the Covid-19 lockdown, which led to reduced liquid fuels demand. Sasol said output at the Natref refinery in Sasolburg, which it jointly operates with Total South Africa, fell 22percent lower than a year earlier. Production was suspended in April following an unprecedented decline in fuel demand due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

Liquid fuels and natural gas sales fell by 12 and 8percent respectively, due to lower market demand resulting from the decline in the South African economy and the effect of the Covid-19 lockdown.

“Liquid fuels sales volumes of 52.7million barrels exceeded the previous market guidance of approximately 50 to 51 million barrels due to a quicker recovery in fuel demand as a result of the earlier-than-anticipated easing of the Covid-19 lockdown regulations in South Africa,” said Sasol.

Sales volumes from the base chemicals foundation business excluding polymers US products declined 3 percent during the period under review as a result of lower fourth-quarter sales.

Sasol shares fell 1.07percent to close at R140.48 on the JSE yesterday


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