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The recent discoveries of natural gas in southern Africa, which includes trillions of cubic metres discovered in the Rovuma Basin off the Mozambique coast, are expected to spark an increase in natural gas usage in the region. The increase in the availability of natural gas presents an opportunity for many industries to significantly increase profitability while reducing energy costs, says gas distribution specialist Virtual Gas Networks (VGN).

Natural gas network expands energy accessNatural gas provides a consistently high energy heat of +/- 39.22 MJ (10.89 kWh) per m3, making it an economically friendlier option than most fossil based fuels. Natural gas also burns cleaner than most fossil fuels, reducing smell, and improves equipment and plant performance and reduces maintenance by minimising the build-up of carbon residues within components, which reduces down time.

Natural gas is an environmentally friendlier energy alternative, says VGN. It emits lower levels of harmful emissions such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxides, and produces fewer greenhouse gases when compared to other fossil fuels. Natural gas, which emits up to 27% less CO2 and other GHG’s than other fossil fuels, will play a critical role in allowing companies to maintain their production targets under a cleaner, healthier and effective energy dispensation, the company believes.

The South African government has committed to greenhouse gas emissions reductions of 34% by 2020 and 42% by 2025 through the introduction of the Carbon Tax Bill. Natural gas will play a critical role in assisting companies to adequately revise their energy models in light of this Bill.

According to VGN, Johannesburg is one of the first areas to benefit from a newly accessible natural gas network. This is being made possible through the development of a rapidly expanding gas distribution network by the company.

This is a road distribution method on a commercial-scale available to businesses anywhere within a 300-km radius of Johannesburg. It will soon be launched in KZN. A modular road transport system, the network can safely and economically transport natural gas to refuelling stations, gas distribution networks, industries, power generation systems, as well as to customers who are not on an existing gas pipeline.

This road distribution system supplies refuelling stations and customers who have no direct access to the existing gas network, and who want an alternative energy source to liquid petroleum gas, diesel, paraffin, and coal. All gas supply equipment can be installed and provided at no direct cost to customers, and they only pay for the natural gas used.

VGN was recently enlisted to convert the coal-burning boiler systems of 10 state-owned hospitals to cleaner natural gas. The company has already converted canneries, hospitals, manufacturing and assembly plants across a range of industries, as well as taxi’s, petrol and diesel fleets and warehouse forklifts in various storage and logistical applications to natural gas.

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