Secunda isa vast coal-to-fuels and chemical plant located in South Africa. The plant is run by Sasol Ltd., one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases.
The facility issues 56.5 million tons of gases and its effect could be causing up to 72 deaths per year.
These figures are part of a study conducted by Gray Sky Solutions, a firm based in Palo Alto, California (USA) that analyzed the impact that emissions in Mpumalanga, South Africa – home of the aforementioned plant – had on air quality and health.
The research was conducted in 2016 and its results were presented in mid-2019 without consequence.
A concerning reality
The most concerning aspect is that Secunda is one of 14 industrial facilities in the region included in the study. The facilities include 12 power plants owned by Eskom and the NatRed refinery, all located in Mpumalanga and its surrounding areas, within Highveld.
Ambient PM2.5 pollution from these facilities caused 305 to 650 early deaths in that area in 2016. If the 14 facilities were required to comply with the minimum emission standards that will go into effect force in 2020, the deaths could be reduced by 60%, preventing between 182 and 388 deaths in Highveld and the surrounding areas per year.
Assessing the impact
Aiming to quantify the effects that air pollution from major stationary sources around the Highveld area could have on health, the researchers analyzed the impact that the 12 Eskom coal power stations, the Secunda plant, and the Natref refinery.
The area assessed for air pollution covered a surface of about 147,312 square kilometers. This zone includes the highly populated metropolitan areas of Pretoria and Johannesburg, with a total population of 20,620,000 people in 2016.
Confirmation from the UN
In October 2018, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirmed that the planet’s temperature rose by 1 °C since pre-industrial times.
“We have 12 years to prevent catastrophic climate change. We need to cut emissions by 45%, to 2010 levels, by 2030 and to net zero by 2050,” the memorandum reads.
“With current emission rates and usual commercial routes, we will exceed 1.5 °C over the next 10-15 years. There will be even more catastrophes for workers, the poor, the most vulnerable and life-supporting ecosystems. With a rise of 2 °C or higher, we will quickly become an uninhabitable planet.”
“Sasol, along with other carbon polluters, is to blame for high levels of carbon and toxic pollution in Mpumalanga, Vaal, Limpopo, North West, and Durban,” the document continues.
For South Africa to achieve its zero-emissions goals, Sasol needs to “shutdown” Secunda and establish a transition plan with clear deadlines. The program must “include climate debt repayments to SA, reparations to communities affected by air pollution and clear support for workers to ensure they benefit in the process,” it adds.
More emissions than many nations
Sasol’s current and historic impacts on the climate are significant, according to Tracey Davies, the executive director of Just Share, a non-profit shareholder activism and responsible investment organization. Davies claims that the company issues more greenhouse gases per year than many developed nations.
Secunda’s emissions in South Africa exceed the individual total of more than 100 nations, including Norway and Portugal, according to Global Carbon Atlas.
Sasol issues more greenhouse gases per year than many developed nations. For instance, its emissions in 2017 (CO2 equivalent) were 67,632 kilotons; for its part, Denmark’s emissions totaled 49,000 kilotons, Finland 55,000 kilotons, Hungary 63,000 kilotons, and Ireland 60,743 kilotons.
The World Health Organization confirmed that air pollution poses the greatest health risk worldwide.
Human exposure to chemical toxins like sulphur, heavy metals like mercury and fine particles causes chronic respiratory illnesses like asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer, and contributes to strokes, heart attacks, birth defects, and premature death.
The company’s spokesperson Alex Anderson stated that “Sasol is firmly committed” to having a role in the transition to a low-carbon economy.
“We support the Paris Agreement and South Africa’s Nationally Determined Contribution. We supported the government in signing up to the agreement and our position remains committed to the goal.”
For more information, check Energía16