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Sulphur emission enquiry | Update

19 February 2021

Johannesburg, South Africa – Following the sulphur odour experienced over the Mpumalanga Highveld and Gauteng regions this week, the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), through the Environmental Management Inspectorate (EMI), and the Local Licensing Authority from the Gert Sibande District Municipality in Mpumalanga visited Sasol’s Secunda Operations on Thursday, 18 February 2021. This was part of their investigation into the sulphur odour experienced across the region, which Sasol supports and cooperated with. We will await the outcome of their investigation and will continue to cooperate.

Sasol conducts its activities in accordance with applicable legal and regulatory requirements and with due care and regard to the environment and the communities within which we operate, amongst others through an extensive monitoring network. In light of the complaints received and our approach to monitor and investigate factors that influence ambient air quality across our operating regions, Sasol initiated an investigation to attempt to identify the source of the reported sulphur odour.

Our Secunda Operations in Mpumalanga have been stable in this recent period, with no operational incidents that have or could have resulted in sulphur emissions higher than expected during stable operations and normal maintenance activities. 

Our investigation initially considered sulphur dioxide (SO2) and subsequently, hydrogen sulphide (H2S). Sasol initiated a study of meteorological conditions during this period, applying international acceptable modelling tools aimed at predicting the most plausible origin of the odours. Our investigation also includes analysis of emissions data obtained from our stack monitoring systems and our comprehensive ambient air quality monitoring network, prior to and during this recent period. 

Preliminary observations from our investigation, which have been shared with the DEFF and the Local Licensing authority, include: 

  • Sasol’s emission loads over the period remained within the normal operational variance and within applicable atmospheric emission license limits. 
  • The preliminary results of the air mass trajectory analysis indicate that prevailing meteorological conditions were conducive to the migration of air mass from the Mpumalanga Highveld region to the central and northern parts of Gauteng.
  • These meteorological conditions have persisted for several days over the Mpumalanga Highveld and Gauteng regions where several possible contributing sulphur sources are present and has exacerbated the sulphur odour. 
  • The likely source cannot be isolated to one specific contributor, but is more likely a compounding effect of several contributors of sulphur emissions over the Mpumalanga Highveld and Gauteng regions.
  • The prevalent meteorological conditions in the region, during the summer months, are conducive to proper atmospheric mixing and adequate dispersion of emissions.

While our own investigation continues, our preliminary view remains that Sasol’s emission profile reflects compliant and stable operations, and that anomalous atmospheric conditions compounded the effect of industrial sulphur emissions in the Mpumalanga Highveld and Gauteng regions. We remain committed to collaborate with the authorities in concluding their investigation in this regard.


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