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The largest power plant running exclusively on gas engines on the African continent, and the first of its kind ever in the Republic of South Africa, is to be inaugurated today. The complete turnkey project package at a demanding altitude of 1,500 metres was supplied by Wärtsilä on a fast-track basis with performance guarantees.

Today, the inauguration of the Sasol Gas Engine Power Plant, located in Sasolburg, south of Johannesburg in South Africa, takes place with a ceremony at the plant site. Wärtsilä has been responsible for the engineering, procurement, construction and project management of the new power plant, which is powered by 18 Wärtsilä 34SG generating sets running on natural gas with an operating capacity of 140 MW. It is the largest operational power plant running exclusively on gas engines on the African continent, and the first of its kind ever in the Republic of South Africa. The electricity produced by the plant will be used by Sasol's chemical factory next to the plant, with about half of the production being fed to the national grid.

"This plant is a significant milestone for Sasol, as we begin to ease our load on the national grid and contribute to our own energy efficiency targets. We are proud of this new facility which demonstrates how we can add versatility to natural gas," says Lean Strauss, Sasol Senior Group Executive, International Energy, New Business Development and Technology.

Tony van Velzen, Regional Director, Africa, Wärtsilä Power Plants adds: "This inauguration marks a significant step forward for power generation based on gas fuel. Never before has a power plant of this size running exclusively on gas engines been installed on the African continent, and we see this as an important achievement on the road to cleaner and more efficient electricity production. We are proud to have worked closely with Sasol to develop this highly efficient and environmentally sustainable facility."

"This is truly a great achievement. Our team completed the first major power plant project in South Africa ahead of schedule. Our ability to conform with the stringent health, safety and environment requirements was one of the success factors in achieving the project objectives," says Antti Kämi, Vice President, Project Management, Wärtsilä Power Plants.

Despite the high altitude (1,500 metres) of the Sasolburg plant, the Wärtsilä gas engines are able to operate with an extremely high level of efficiency. Furthermore, the closed-loop cooling system used by Wärtsilä imposes a minimal demand for water, which is an important factor in areas such as this where water resources are limited.

The plant is operated and maintained by Wärtsilä under a 3-year agreement. By taking responsibility for operating and maintaining the power plant, Wärtsilä implements its global best practices to ensure that it delivers the design output with maximum efficiency. Local employees of Sasol New Energy have also been trained as part of this agreement.

Wärtsilä's presence in southern Africa is becoming increasingly significant, and is likely to strengthen further as the use of natural gas as fuel continues to be developed. In December 2012, Wärtsilä signed a contract to engineer, supply and install a major gas fuelled power plant in Mozambique. The power plant is scheduled for completion by May 2014.

To date, Wärtsilä has delivered 470 power plants to Africa with a total output of 5,000 MW. Globally, Wärtsilä has delivered almost 4,700 power plants in 169 countries with a total generating capacity of close to 54 GW.

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