Sasol still keen on Karoo fracking

Sasol CEO David Constable says his company is encouraged by moves to allow fracking in the Karoo.

FILE: Equipment used for the extraction of natural gas is viewed at a hydraulic fracturing site on 19 June 2012 in South Montrose, Pennsylvania. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Sasol CEO David Constable on Monday said his company remains interested in extracting shale gas in the Karoo, despite its massive investment in extraction projects in the United States (US).

Earlier on Monday, the petroleum company reported a 25 percent increase in full-year earnings, boosted by higher synthetic fuel production and a weaker rand.

Headline earnings per share for the year to end-June totalled R52.62 from R42.28 a year earlier.

South Africa's largest company by revenue and the world's top maker of motor fuels from coal saw revenue boosted by a 14 percent weakening of the rand-dollar exchange rate.

"Make no mistake, we had some tailwinds from the macroeconomics, specifically the weaker rand," Constable told 567 CapeTalk/Talk Radio 702's Bruce Whitfield.

But the Canadian CEO says the company needs to get its house in order so it doesn't rely on variables it can't control, such as commodity prices and currencies.

Sasol has increasingly diversified into chemicals and gas, and clean-energy projects to align itself with the global trend toward cleaner energy.

It plans to spend up to $14 billion building the first US commercial plant that will turn natural gas into liquid fuels.

The company has faced criticism for its heavy investment in shale gas, which is acquired through a process commonly known as fracking.

But Constable says it's important for the company to continue growing, saying business can't stand still.

"We also need to grow and diversify not only in the industries that we're in."

He said he is encouraged by Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies who has called for further consideration of fracking in the Karoo, suggesting it would massively help the economy.

"We're very interested in the Karoo, we've been looking at it for a long time," Constable says, "It's a real game-changer, to me it's a game-changer for the region if we can do it in an environmentally friendly fashion."

He says once government implements the various regulations and environmental frameworks, shale gas will become a great opportunity for South Africa.

While it's spending huge amounts overseas, South Africa remains Sasol's major focus, says Constable.

He says the company is the country's largest corporate taxpayer, continues to employ large numbers of South Africans and has been succeeding in transformation, having recently been awarded level-three B-BBEE status.

The company is building new headquarters in Katherine Street, Sandton, which he says will be 5-star rated in terms of environmental friendliness and will be a "real showcase and landmark" in the city.

He says the building will remain the company's headquarters "for many years to come."