BEACON OF KNOWLEDGE

Qatar 2019 | ENERGY | INTERVIEW

Sasol established the world's first commercial gas-to-liquids (GTL) facility and has since transferred knowledge to the local staff to forward its policy of helping local communities and promoting greener practices.

Phinda Vilakazi
BIOGRAPHY
In July 2015, Phinda Vilakazi was appointed President of GTL Ventures at Sasol, responsible for the overall Sasol GTL portfolio within Sasol Energy. Prior to his current position, Vilakazi worked in key global energy hubs, including North America, West Africa, and the Middle East. He is a member of the Sasol Energy Executive Committee and serves on the boards of several company subsidiaries. He was previously based in Lagos, Nigeria, with responsibility for Sasol’s business interests in Nigeria and growth opportunities in West Africa. He has worked for other multinational companies, including General Electric and Arcelor Mitta, and holds a bachelor’s in chemical engineering and an MBA.

What are Sasol's prospects for the Qatari market as the country moves toward more downstream production?
We are focusing on opportunities to upgrade our product slate to produce higher-value products, which plays into Qatar's strategy to increase production of downstream products. If we consider the existing products, we would be talking mostly about diesel and naphtha. We are evaluating potential opportunities to manufacture higher-value products in Qatar so these can enter higher-value markets that have limited exposure to crude oil price volatility. This is an opportunity for Qatar to expand beyond products dependent on oil prices. We have a strong presence in the US, where we are adding new capacity to our chemical business. We also have a strong presence in Europe. Our chemical business' head office is in Hamburg, which is also complemented by a presence in Italy.

What has been the success of your partnership with Qatar Petroleum, and how has this partnership helped Sasol enter other markets?

With Qatar Petroleum, we established the first gas-to-liquids (GTL) facility, ORYX GTL, the first global facility on a commercial scale. This was a flagship plant for the whole world, and we have used the facility to tell our success story. We previously used similar technology in South Africa, though with coal. ORYX GTL was the first time our technology was used to convert gas to liquid fuel products, and it proved that there are other options with gas besides LNG. With GTL, we are creating higher-value products that can be used to export to other countries. The added advantage of GTL is that we can further create downstream industries, which means more opportunities for the country, in addition to the transfer of knowledge and skills. When the plant started, there were many Sasol employees that helped build the plant, though experience and knowledge was eventually transferred to local staff.

How can Sasol-developed products contribute to a greener transport sector in Qatar?

Diesel for cars or trucks is typically produced from crude oil. With our technology, we are making diesel from gas, which makes the product cleaner and of a higher quality. We have been asked if this diesel product can be used locally and are supporting Qatar Petroleum's efforts to evaluate what it will take to introduce GTL diesel into the local market. One of the main benefits of this would be a reduction in air pollution. There is a great deal to do in Qatar in terms of promoting greener practices to protect the environment, and Sasol wants to make its own contribution in this regard.

How is Sasol investing in corporate social responsibility in Qatar?

Sasol is proud to have taken a different view on how to support the community. We created initiatives that the country needs, making sure to positively impact the community. We created Qatar e-Nature, a mobile app and website that shares species information found in Qatar. This became a main source of information, and we are still investing to gather more images and include more species. This became possible because of a partnership with a local NGO, Friends of the Environment Center. We also conduct an annual schools contest supported by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education. Other initiatives include supporting people with disabilities, one of which is called Definitely Able, which we started in 2012; we work with all institutes that deal with disabilities. We also started the Accessible Qatar Initiative in 2016, which is unique globally. We hired an accredited accessibility consultant to do accessibility audits of public places and share this information via a mobile app and website, so that people can find out how accessible a venue is depending on their disability. The audit also allows the venue to identify any accessibility issues and fix them. We provide information to the venues as well as users, as it is their right to know. Each of our initiatives continues to grow and expand.