October 3 , 2022 [Creamer Media’s Engineering News] – Hydrocarbon solutions company FFS Refiners is investing R350-million into the expansion of the existing storage and handling facility of FFS Tank Terminals that will enable the bulk import of bitumen, an essential product in critical road construction projects, into the Port of Durban.
FFS Tank Terminals’ facilities will provide the industry with the security of a bulk supply of bitumen following the untimely demise of the local refining industry, says FFS Refiners CEO Andrew Canning.
Currently, the only available import options for this liquid product is directly from ship to road tanker, which is a time-consuming and environmentally unfriendly practice, he avers.
“I am confident that our facility will become the hub for bitumen import and other high flash oil-based products into Durban,” he says.
The expansion consists of the construction of storage tanks with a total capacity of 26 500 m3, or 26.5-million litres, and will be implemented in two phases.
Phase 1 will be built for rental and will include three storage tanks with a capacity of 7.5-million litres, including product heating facilities, an import pipeline, two loading gantries and two weighbridge facilities.
Phase 1 is already under way, with all engineering design work completed. This phase is expected to be operational by September 2023. South African civil and tank fabrication contractors have been appointed, ensuring job creation is prioritised during the expansion, Canning highlights.
Phase 2 design is ongoing, with an estimated completion in November 2024, and will include storage tanks with a capacity of 19-million litres.
“We already have interest from several potential customers for storage services and, once commitments and regulatory authorisations are obtained, we can commence with the construction activities,” says FFS Tank Terminals business division manager Mbuseleni Zulu.
Further, the Maydon Wharf site was strategically chosen by FFS to avoid the congestion currently being experienced at the Island View Complex.
“The FFS Tank Terminals at Maydon Wharf is less congested and offers easier access and therefore opportunity to escape the delays by choosing the Maydon Wharf facility instead,” he says.
There is massive demand for bitumen in road construction projects in South Africa, especially related to the strategic infrastructure programmes outlined by President Cyril Ramaphosa that need to be addressed for South Africa’s economy to be put back on track.
“Additionally, the Vala Zonke programme, announced by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, aims to address the scourge of potholes nationally. The availability of bitumen will enable this critical infrastructure programme to meet its goals and keep the economy of South Africa moving forward,” Canning notes.
FFS Refiners aims to grow its staff complement with this expansion. FFS Tank Terminals currently employs 30 full-time employees, and anticipates an increase of 20 more permanent staff after the expansion.
Parent company FFS Refiners employs more than 400 people, following the acquisition of OTGC Terminals.
“The acquisition of OTGC Terminals was borne from FFS Refiners’ anticipation of the closure of local refineries. We saw an opportunity with the contraction and closure of the refineries. This acquisition unlocks a sustainable revenue stream from storage rentals to third-party tenants and also ensures steady import feedstock options for our traditional markets,” Canning says.
Meanwhile, Rubis Asphalt, a large importer of bitumen into the country, has signed a contract to be the anchor tenant for FFS Tank Terminals Durban. Rubis Asphalt is also FFS Refiners’ anchor tenant in Cape Town and currently provides the only bulk import storage facility for bitumen into Cape Town.
“Following our successful venture in Cape Town, FFS Refiners and Rubis Asphalt have again joined hands to develop a dedicated bitumen import and storage terminal at the Port of Durban. The long-term storage agreement between the two companies demonstrates Rubis’ commitment to the South African asphalt and road construction industry,” says Rubis Asphalt commercial manager Mark Simonsen.
Road infrastructure plays a vital role in the economy and is considered a major driver for growth and employment, he says.
“FFS Tank Terminals’ substantial investment and Rubis Asphalt’s long-term commitment are the companies’ contribution to and confidence in the South African economy. With this, Rubis Asphalt will ensure that quality and hot bitumen will always be available throughout the year at the Port of Durban,” he adds.
“As the Port of Durban and Transnet National Ports Authority, we encourage and welcome such investments in our ports. This capital investment reinforces the fact that the Port has a pivotal role to play in terms of being an enabler and catalyst for economic growth and development, both for the region as well as the country,” states Port of Durban port manager Mpumi Dweba-Kwetana.
“The port will continue to support businesses like FFS, as this milestone is aligned to one of our core mandates of being a facilitator of trade,” she says.
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