October 28, 2019 / 2:50 PM / a month ago

Renergen commissions South Africa’s first commercial helium plant

JOHANNESBURG, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Energy company Renergen said on Monday it had commissioned South Africa’s first commercial liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquid helium plant, the Virginia Gas Project.

The gas project will position South Africa as the only African commercial helium producer and one of eight countries in the world exporting the natural resource alongside the United States and Qatar.

Renergen said it had appointed Chinese equipment company Western Shell Cryogenic Equipment Co. (WSCE) to supply technology and equipment for the plant and EPCM Bonisana to install the pipeline and manage the interface.

“We look forward to seeing Renergen and WSCE making liquid natural gas and liquid helium in South Africa a reality,” said the company in an official statement.

The U.S government’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) approved a $40 million loan in February this year to provide capital for the project after the company announced it had discovered reserves of up to 11% helium concentrations in the Free State province.

The project is planned to be operational from 2021, with a planned daily production of 645.3 tonnes of LNG and 350 kg of helium.

Helium is used, among other things, to cool superconducting magnets in medical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners, as a lifting gas in balloons and airships, as a gas to breathe in deep-sea diving and to keep satellite instruments cool. (Reporting by Naledi Mashishi; Editing by Mark Potter)

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