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Engineering News | Latest News

Engineering News is South Africa’s premier source of weekly real-economy news on projects, products, policies, personalities and technoeconomic progress, covering a wide range of industries – from agroprocessing to information technology.

Ramaphosa on reconciliation: More needs to be done

Reconciliation in South Africa can only be achieved once corruption and political divisions are eradicated, President Cyril Ramaphosa has said. Announcing that he will be travel to Bergville in KwaZulu-Natal to observe the Day of Reconciliation on Monday, he said South Africa had "much further to go".

Posted on 16 December 2019 | 8:01 am

DRC reverts to 4 800 MW plan for Inga

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will proceed with a smaller version of the Inga III hydropower project and expand the facility over time, President Felix Tshisekedi said. The Inga III dam, which will begin as a 4 800 MWplant, will have its capacity increased to 7 500 MW and 11 000 MW eventually, Tshisekedi told lawmakers Friday in the capital, Kinshasa. Once completed, the facility would be the biggest hydroelectric power station on the continent and provide much-needed electricity to Congo and other nations, including South Africa.

Posted on 16 December 2019 | 5:17 am

Nampak sells Europe plastics unit

JSE-listed Nampak on Friday announced that it entered into an agreement for the sale of Nampak Plastics Europe (NPE) to Bellcave for an undisclosed amount. NPE was designated as an asset held for sale in August and an accelerated disposal process was initiated.

Posted on 13 December 2019 | 2:49 pm

SA wants to be continent’s automotive producer of choice – Patel

Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel is hoping that regular meetings between government, labour and representatives from the vehicle assemblers and automotive component suppliers, will create a stable and predictable environment for automotive investment. The Automotive Executive Oversight Committee (EOC) on Friday held its inaugural meeting and will continue to meet every three months, as government aims to ramp up vehicle exports.

Posted on 13 December 2019 | 2:13 pm

DMRE sets Jan 31 deadline for responses to RFI for 3 000 MW of near-term supply

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) on Friday released a request for information (RFI) in a bid to procure between 2000 MW and 3000 MW of power generation capacity "that can be grid connected in the shortest time at the least possible cost". Respondents to the RFI have been given until 10:00 on January 31 to make submissions.

Posted on 13 December 2019 | 12:25 pm

South Africa records smaller FDI inflows in third quarter

South Africa recorded smaller foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows in the third quarter compared with the second quarter, but portfolio investment inflows jumped after the government issued international bonds, central bank data showed on Friday. Africa's most industrialised economy had FDI inflows of R17-billion in the third quarter from inflows of R26.3-billion in the second quarter, the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) said in its Quarterly Bulletin.

Posted on 13 December 2019 | 9:12 am

Namibia rushes to drill boreholes as worst drought in a century bites

Namibia's dam water levels have almost halved from already low levels as the worst drought in more than 100 years pushes the desert nation closer to famine. Dams nationwide were at 19.3% of capacity compared to 35.6% this time last year, water utility Namwater said, a drop officials blame on climate change and a five-year drought ripping through southern Africa.

Posted on 13 December 2019 | 9:11 am

Ebrahim welcomes potential Saldanha Steel buyers

Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel outlined, in a Parliamentary reply this week, the efforts taken by government to help make a positive case for why steel producer ArcelorMittal South Africa (AMSA) should not close down its Saldanha Steel Works operation. Patel said four potential buyers were already considering making a bid for the operation, which government supported, so that jobs could be retained.

Posted on 13 December 2019 | 9:00 am

Special parking tariffs available to travellers at four South African airports

Parking tariffs for stays of seven days and longer at South Africa’s four largest airports have been slashed for the peak holiday season, from December 13 to January 13, 2020. The reduced tariffs will apply at OR Tambo International Airport, Cape Town International Airport, King Shaka International Airport and Port Elizabeth International Airport.

Posted on 13 December 2019 | 8:51 am

Minerals Council joins calls for govt to ensure increased electricity self-generation

The Minerals Council South Africa has welcomed the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s (DMRE’s) statement that it is committed to the development of adequate generation capacity to meet electricity demand in the interests of economic growth. However, the council said the industry believes further actions were urgently needed.

Posted on 13 December 2019 | 8:41 am

Eskom continues load-shedding as unplanned breakdowns affect 12 000 MW of capacity

South Africa's electricity company Eskom said on Friday unplanned breakdowns at its plants were affecting just under 12 000 megawatt of generating capacity, forcing it to burn diesel and use water from pumped storage schemes to augment its base load. "Load-shedding will be required all day to cater for further trips and to create capacity to replenish water reserves for our pumped storage schemes," said the State-owned utility, which supplies about 95 percent of the country's power needs, mostly from coal. "Breakdowns are at 11 996 MW as at 06:30 this morning. We continue to use diesel for our open cycle gas turbines and water at pumped storage schemes to supplement capacity."

Posted on 13 December 2019 | 8:40 am

New Oxford-Glenhove buildings aim for 4-star green ratings

The two newest buildings to be built on the intersection of Oxford and Glenhove roads – OxGlen Block 3 and Block 4 – will aim to achieve 4-Star Green Star SA Office Design rating from the Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA), engineering consultancy Solid Green Consulting senior sustainable building consultant Annelide Sherratt said this week. The precinct is home to Coca-Cola and Sappi’s South African headquarters. The newest buildings have incorporated many of these buildings’ best performing features, as well as some of their architectural details.

Posted on 13 December 2019 | 8:39 am

Union to protest on Eskom CEO’s first day

Incoming Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter can expect a rocky start to his tenure as boss of the troubled power utility, as the National Union of Mineworkers plans to demonstrate and hand him a memorandum on his first day in the office. The Num has been disgruntled at Eskom lately, not least due to what the union calls an increasing workload and plummeting morale as a result of load-shedding, which escalated to stage 6 earlier this week. President Cyril Ramaphosa and Eskom leadership said on Wednesday that sabotage likely played a role in some of the system failures that forced Eskom to implement the latest round of load-shedding. This comes against a backdrop of the highly anticipated Special Paper on Eskom, and the planned unbundling of the power utility into three entities – generation, transmission and distribution. De Ruyter is due to start serving as Eskom CEO on January 15 next year. Num energy sector coordinator Paris Mashego told Fin24 on Thursday that the union planned to demonstrate on his first day at the office.

Posted on 13 December 2019 | 8:36 am

Election in UK brings some certainty, but Brexit deal remains concerning, says Parsons

North West University business school economist Professor Raymond Parsons says the now re-elected Conservative Party government in the UK provides a strong political mandate to pass the necessary legislation in time to leave the European Union (EU) formally on January 31. Britain will then move into transition, during which its EU membership will, nevertheless, in effect continue in terms of the negotiated withdrawal agreement.

Posted on 13 December 2019 | 8:24 am

EOH sells dental information business

JSE-listed technology services group EOH’s EOH Abantu subsidiary has announced it will sell all of its shares in Dental Information Systems Holdings (Denis) to Afrocentric Health for R250-million. Denis and its subsidiaries were acquired by EOH in 2012 to provide the group with healthcare technology capability and dental claims risk management, as well as dental insurance intellectual property.

Posted on 13 December 2019 | 8:16 am

Sasol willing to consider using ‘green hydrogen’ to produce lower-carbon fuels

South African energy and chemicals group Sasol, which is under increasing pressure to lower its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, has indicated a willingness to participate in demonstration projects aimed at deploying its Fischer-Tropsch assets in combination with ‘green hydrogen’, produced from renewable energy and water using electrolysis. Sasol’s current hydrogen-production methodology involves the use of coal and water in a process that is highly carbon-intensive. This coal-based hydrogen is, in turn, used in Fischer-Tropsch reactors to produce a suite of products, including diesel and kerosene, or jet fuel.

Posted on 13 December 2019 | 7:30 am

Higher trade barriers hitting jobs and growth – WTO

More than 100 new trade restrictions imposed during the year to mid-October affected goods and services worth an estimated $747-billion, the highest level for a 12-month period since 2012, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) said on Thursday. New measures including tariffs, quantitative restrictions, stricter customs procedures, import taxes and export duties were up 27% from the previous annual period, fuelling uncertainty in international trade and the global economy, it said.

Posted on 13 December 2019 | 7:26 am

AfDB, African Union to develop electricity master plan for the continent

Development finance institution, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the African Union’s Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) plan to develop a blueprint for a pan-continental electricity network and market, the organisations have said. “The Continental Power System Master Plan will ensure that competitive electricity markets are developed at regional and continental levels, creating unique opportunities to optimally utilise Africa’s vast energy resources for the benefit of Africa,” senior energy adviser to AUDA-NEPAD’s CEO, Professor Mosad Elmissiry said in a statement issued this week.

Posted on 13 December 2019 | 7:25 am

Proudly South African continuous miner on its way into Australian mining market

A Proudly South African continuous miner, which is being shipped to Australia for final assembly, is due to go into operation Down Under in May, Mining Weekly Online can today report. “It certainly shows that the Australian mining industry has gained a lot of confidence in our ability,” said Danie van Wyk, the CEO of JA Engineering Works, the exporter of the remotely controlled Wildcat JAE42A, which was designed and manufactured by JAE in Jet Park, Boksburg, and which has a high local content of 90%. JA Engineering Works is a 200-employee, 30.5% black-owned original-equipment manufacturer of not only continuous miners but also shuttle cars, roof bolters and feeder breakers, all of which are powered by grid electricity or large generators. The company is also a leading manufacturer of battery scoops, which are powered by direct-current batteries. The robust Wildcat has been built from scratch, in a way that responds to customer requirements.

Posted on 13 December 2019 | 6:42 am

Opinion: Backward glance

This year has been quite eventful for Africa, and some of the occurrences that came to pass were captured on this page over the past 50-odd weeks. In this last edition for 2019, I take you down memory lane, highlighting some of the noteworthy events. Perhaps one of the major African news stories of 2019 was the increasing incidence and severity of extreme weather events. In Southern Africa, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe – which are among the poorest countries in the region – were buffeted by tropical cyclones in March and April that left in their wake massive destruction of infrastructure and loss of life and limb on a not insignificant scale.

Posted on 13 December 2019 | 6:00 am

UNDP, Irena help countries to meet climate pledges

Renewable energy deployment has to accelerate six-fold by 2030 if the world is to achieve the goal of cutting global carbon emissions by 45% and keep temperatures below 1.5 ˚C above pre-industrial levels. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) says it is possible for countries to stop the progression of fossil fuels.

Posted on 13 December 2019 | 6:00 am

Bloodhound chief engineer on heat, dust and record-breaking dream

Dusty Hakskeenpan, in the Kalahari desert, is not exactly the place one expects a bunch of Brits to hang around during a hot African summer. It’s 260 km from the nearest big town – Upington – and average daytime temperatures hover somewhere in the mid-thirties, if not higher. But, the men and women who started to descend on one of the world’s flattest surfaces from October onwards were not ordinary tourists. They were here as part of a hunt to set a new land-speed record.

Posted on 13 December 2019 | 6:00 am

Apron belt feeder promises strength and control

A new apron belt feeder for run-of-mine (RoM) and stockyard applications offers the strength of an apron feeder with the spillage control of a conveyor system. The belt-over-apron feeder has a low-profile loading deck and a modular design, for adjustable-rate feeding of abrasive materials such as mineral sands, iron-ore and bauxite, in midtier RoM applications and stockyard management operations.

Posted on 13 December 2019 | 6:00 am

Regional deals to drive merger activity in chemicals sector globally – AT Kearney

Most chemical industry executives believe global chemicals merger and acquisition (M&A) activity will continue to increase or stay at high levels, as a global trend of coping with challenging economic conditions. Management consultancy AT Kearney in its latest ‘Chemicals Executive M&A’ report finds that 39% of chemicals executives expect deal activity to increase, while 41% anticipate a stabilisation at high level.

Posted on 13 December 2019 | 2:00 am

Development institutions help African countries align with global sustainability plans

Three development institutions have partnered to present a digital application at the Conference Of the Parties 25 climate conference, in Madrid, this week, to help African countries that are grappling with implementing key global initiatives. The United Nations Development Programme, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the African Union Development Agency have named the application the Guide for Integrated Planning in Africa.

Posted on 13 December 2019 | 2:00 am

Large power users say options to alleviate pressures need to be urgently unlocked

The Energy Intensive Users Group of Southern Africa reiterated on Thursday that its members had several options available to alleviate South Africa’s electricity supply constraints, while warning that the risk of load-shedding would persist until new supply- and demand-side solutions were identified to create sustained reserve capacity. The EIUG, which includes mining and industrial enterprises that collectively consume about 40% of South Africa’s electrical energy, said in a statement that the options included leveraging private balance sheets to build new generation capacity. Greater collaboration between government, Eskom and business was urgently required to unlock these options, many of which fell under the direct authority of Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe. One of these, the EIUG said, included Ministerial permission for large power users to either procure power from independent power producers, or to generate their own electricity.

Posted on 12 December 2019 | 2:50 pm

MTN argues Commission's data recommendations not based on bigger view

Telecommunications giant MTN on Thursday argued that the Competition Commission has localised their recommendations to an area that accounts for only a third of the operators current data revenue, with MTN’s pricing realistically deemed “in the middle of the road”. The issuance of the Competition Commission’s Data Services Market Inquiry Final Report sparked pushback from mobile operators after it set out a series of hardline recommendations in an effort to lower the cost of data.

Posted on 12 December 2019 | 2:33 pm

Parliament seeking submissions on the Defence Amendment Bill

The National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans has called for written submissions from “stakeholders and interested parties” on the Defence Amendment Bill (Bill 18 of 2017). The National Assembly is the lower house of the South African Parliament. “The objective of the Bill is to align the Defence Act (No. 42 of 2002) with current Departmental organisational requirements to enhance the efficiency of the Department of Defence,” stated the Committee in its press release on Thursday. “Public hearings will be conducted in Parliament by the Committee on a date yet to be determined.” The Bill had been passed by the National Assembly in November 2018. But the National Council of Provinces (the upper house of Parliament) had then made amendments to it.

Posted on 12 December 2019 | 1:34 pm

Farmers reeling from latest bout of load-shedding

Eskom's current load-shedding has struck in the middle of the Western Cape's fruit season, further hobbling a key industry that depends on a regular electricity supply, Geoff Jacobs, president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said on Wednesday. The Western Cape fruit sector earns South Africa large amounts of foreign exchange, meaning load-shedding has impacted this income stream as well, Jacobs added. According to GreenCape, taking into account the entire value chain, the agricultural sector overall is estimated to contribute about 12% to the national GDP. The Western Cape is a key contributor, thanks to its wine, citrus and deciduous fruit industries. On social media a citrus farmer explained how the impact of load-shedding phase shifts are wreaking havoc with irrigation scheduling.

Posted on 12 December 2019 | 1:04 pm

Zambia's power supply deficit worsens as water levels sink

Zambia's electricity supply shortage increased to 810 MW in November from around 750 MW in September, State power firm Zesco said on Thursday, adding it would quickly commission new power plants to plug the gap. Africa's second-biggest copper producer has seen electricity supply dwindle due to low water levels at hydropower dams as a severe drought sweeps through southern Africa for the second time in less than five years, largely due to a prolonged dry season caused by climate change.

Posted on 12 December 2019 | 12:58 pm

Growthpoint, Investec venture buys RMB Westport portfolio

Real estate investment trust (Reit) Growthpoint Investec African Properties (Giap) has successfully acquired the RMB Westport Real Estate Development Fund. The entity houses the assets developed and owned by Reit RMB Westport’s inaugural property development fund.

Posted on 12 December 2019 | 12:48 pm

Eskom: We have 'non-firm' power contracts with Zim and Zambia

Eskom's chief operations officer, Jan Oberholzer, has confirmed to journalists that the power utility entered into contracts to supply power to Zimbabwe and Zambia - but only if it is available. The executive was responding to questions from media, following a briefing by President Cyril Ramaphosa at MegaWatt Park, on the steps being taken to resolve the load-shedding crisis. Oberholzer responded to a question about the conditions under which the power utility exports power to neighbouring states. "We have contracts that we have signed, with Zesa of Zimbabwe and Zesco of Zambia. We do export specifically to Zimbabwe at this point in time. I do not know if we have started with Zesco," he said. Zesa, or the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority, and Zesco are state power utilities in Zimbabwe and Zambia, respectively. Oberholzer said he signed the contract with Zesco two weeks ago. He emphasised that this is "non-firm" power. "If Eskom needs the power, we do not export the power. The contracts have been signed as non-firm," he stressed.

Posted on 12 December 2019 | 12:14 pm

Trade conditions to remain subdued for foreseeable term

The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) says trade conditions remained in negative territory in November. The seasonally adjusted Trade Activity Index (TAI), as a measure of recent trade conditions, improved by one point to 43 in November.

Posted on 12 December 2019 | 9:59 am

Court dismisses Myeni's bid to have Outa withdraw from delinquency case

The High Court in Pretoria on Thursday dismissed former South African Airways board chairperson Dudu Myeni's application challenging the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse's involvement in a case which seeks to have her declared a delinquent director.

Posted on 12 December 2019 | 9:11 am

Uganda's Umeme gets $70m loan for national grid expansion

Umeme, the Ugandan power distributor, said on Thursday it has secured $70-million in a syndicated loan to fund infrastructure upgrades and grid expansion. The loan was agreed with the World Bank's private lending arm IFC, South Africa's Standard Bank and Dutch development bank FMO.

Posted on 12 December 2019 | 9:10 am

Global airline sector to increase its profits next year, but African airlines to continue losses

The International Air Transport Association (Iata) has forecast that the world airline industry will achieve its eleventh consecutive year of profit next year. The industry’s 2020 profit is predicted to come to $29.3-billion, up from the $25.9-billion expected for this year (this latter figure being a downgrade from the $28-billion estimated in Iata’s June forecast). However, the African region is expected to make a loss next year of $200-million, which is similar to the loss they made this year. The Middle East region will also register a loss, for the third year in succession.

Posted on 12 December 2019 | 9:06 am

Reliable, affordable data connectivity issues still plague Africa – Seacom

Despite developments on international subsea infrastructure, reliable and affordable data connectivity issues continue to plague Africa, with internet penetration only increasing in recent years largely due to the roll out of mobile networks, pan-African telecoms company Seacom says. Sixteen of 55 African countries are landlocked, posing challenges in extending the high-speed capabilities of subsea cable systems onto reliable terrestrial fibre cables that connect both to key cities that are not on the coast as well getting reliable fibre connectivity through coastal countries into landlocked markets, Seacom CEO Byron Clatterbuck said in a column on the future of subsea cable connectivity on the continent.

Posted on 12 December 2019 | 9:06 am

Load-shedding threatens critical cold storage, water management in agri sector

Industry association Agri SA on Thursday shared its view on how load-shedding has impacted on the agricultural sector. Agri SA Centre of Excellence chairperson Nicol Jansen says Eskom’s implementation of Stage 6 load-shedding on Monday evening caught the South African economy off guard, especially during what is a busy time for producers and agribusinesses.

Posted on 12 December 2019 | 8:59 am