Visiting the site in Coega where the Utshongo PET plant is being developed were KS Narayan of Chemtex USA (technology supplier to the project) along with Luzuko Mbidlana (ALO Polymers), Mphumezi Penny (Utshongo Polytech) and Mukesh Akoobhai (ALO Polymers)

Plans for Utshongo PET plant progress

PLANS for the construction of a PET plant at the Coega IDZ near Port Elizabeth by Utshongo Polytech have progressed, even during the lockdown, and the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) study now being conducted is the next step for the ambitious, estimated R1,3-billion project.

The Utshongo project was introduced to the local market in November 2019.

“The project is progressing well, although there won’t be much feedback at this stage until the EIA is concluded,” said Mphumezi Penny of Utshongo Polytech.

“The nature of PET production (condensation reaction) has no negative impact to the environment and, as you may know, there is no PET plant that’s ever been stopped because of environmental issues. We have had to undertake the EIA process purely because the regulations require that the use of purified terephthalic acid (PTA) raw material be studied to satisfy that there are no negative impacts to the environment.

“By law, construction can only take place once the EIA is concluded and this will still be in 2021,” added Penny.

“Parallel to the EIA process, there is a lot of engineering design that’s taking place. The good news is that South Africa has enough engineering capability and, as a result, most engineering services will be sourced locally – except for the critical aspects of the plant, mainly the reactors and some specialised polymer melt pumps.”

Siting the plant at the Coega IDZ (Industrial Development Zone) is seen as an advantage as incoming materials (MEG and purified terephthalic acid) will be transported by a 3km pipeline from the deep-water port.

The process of selecting local service providers is expected to begin in December.

“The design of our plant has taken into consideration the importance of protecting the environment, and for this reason it will be the most energy-efficient plant. It will have minimal water effluent as the bulk of the process water will be recycled for in-house use,” said Penny.


Tech provider

Chemtex Global Corporation (USA), nominated as the technology provider, has been contracted to supply a turnkey plant to produce 240,000 tpa of PET. The plant will produce all grades of PET required by the sub-Saharan market, including CSD grade; fast-reheat grade, that is now widely used in SA; low IV grade for the still water bottling industry; bio-PET grade using bio-MEG (modified ethylene glycol) originated from renewable plant sources. The latter grade of PET is a way of reducing the carbon footprint, said Penny.

“Our plant will be equipped with the state-of-the-art technology that will make it possible for us do polymer chemical recycling, a first in Africa. This reveals how serious we are about protecting and preserving the environment.

“In terms of our energy mix, Port Elizabeth is known to have a network of wind energy farms. We are exploring the possibility of making use of this clean energy in our mix, together with solar.

“From a marketing point of view, we are excited that there are firm offtakes for the EU and US markets. Unfortunately, the international travel ban has brought our Africa-wide marketing campaigns to a halt. We expect this to begin in quarter one 2021,” added Penny.