Local market forces filtration providers into Africa

Scion Industrial Engineering

Amid a hostile local economic climate, growth in the local industrial water treatment and filtration sector has been stagnant, forcing service providers to expand their offerings into Africa, says South Africa-based industrial water treatment solutions provider WaterIcon.

The company focuses on industrial water treatment. It provides consulting services, chemicals, equipment, engineering, consumables and solutions for water treatment to a variety of industries. The company operates in the automotive, mining, municipal, food and beverage, power, oil and gas, pulp and paper, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, healthcare and primary metals industries.

“It has been a tough year across all local sectors and the water treatment industry has not been immune to the country’s recent economic downturn,” avers WaterIcon GM Chris Ashmore.

He says company budgets countrywide have been tight since the beginning of this year, resulting in limited industry spending on water treatment and filtration projects, with industrial water treatment solutions providers looking to diversify their service offering to remain competitive and relevant in the local market.

The industry is attempting to bolster itself against market volatility by developing new and more cost-effective technologies through deeper expansion into the African market, and reducing operational and overhead costs to become more competitive, adds Ashmore.

“While growth in South Africa is currently limited, the rest of Africa holds the most potential for growth in the industrial water treatment space.”

Ashmore adds that, WaterIcon – like many other service providers in the water treatment and filtration industry – is actively exploring the African market and has developed a strategic growth strategy for 2019. The company hopes that its strategy will result in the company’s developing substantially in African markets next year and into the future.

“WaterIcon foresees strong growth in Mozambique, East Africa and West Africa,” highlights Ashmore.

The company has established key agents in, for example, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Congo and Ethiopia, and plans to establish a WaterIcon office in Tanzania next year to service the growing demand and opportunities it has identified in the East African market.

Ashmore says one of WaterIcon’s key successes has been its strategic expansion into different markets, with the company striving to start new divisions in a new market every year.

“This year, WaterIcon set up the WaterIcon Labs, in Modderfontein, which will be up and running in early 2019. We aim to have it accredited as a South African National Accreditation System laboratory by mid-2019,” he adds. He outlines that the labs will enable the company to offer African clients full water analytical services, state-of-the-art resin testing capabilities, activated carbon analysis and membrane autopsies.

“WaterIcon’s vision is to become the number one water treatment company in Africa in the next five to seven years,” enthuses Ashmore.

“WaterIcon offers everything – from emergency water supply and conventional water treatment processes to wastewater reuse systems. In addition to its full range of expert water treatment services, it stocks a large selection of high-quality water treatment systems, water purification products and water treatment spares and accessories. It also provides a one-stop source for filters and accessories. Through this, it uniquely provides a complete solution for all your water treatment needs,” says Ashmore.

A Brighter Future for Filtration

Despite market hostility throughout 2018, Ashmore expects that next year will prove a more lucrative year for the local water treatment and filtration industry.

“Things have started to look up and we have a positive outlook and forecast for 2019 in economic growth and water treatment projects.”

He explains that WaterIcon has noted an uptick in enquiries and interest in the development of new water-treatment projects, with one of the major focuses being water reuse projects, as water scarcity and costs will continue to be major issues for the South African market.

He states that the water treatment and filtration industry expects a major drive towards zero liquid discharge plants and effluent recycling plants, which he predicts will bolster the industry’s 2019 project pipeline.

Stricter environmental policies will also lead to targeted industries – such as manufacturing, mining, petrochemicals and food and beverage – looking to lessen their environmental impact through better water treatment and governance, Ashmore adds.

“Industrial plants also struggle where the municipalities are run down and cannot ensure a consistent supply of municipal water; because of degrading infrastructure, eventually industries will aim to no longer rely on municipal water completely.”

He states that these factors will result in water treatment and filtration going from strength to strength in coming years, with industry also being spurred by continual technological developments and processes.

“Traditional processes treated the water so that it could be discharged safely back into the environment. With new processes that incorporate ceramic membranes, bioreactors and reverse osmosis filtration, the effluent water stream can be reused for boilers, cooling towers, washwater and other processes.”

WaterIcon is investing in ceramic membrane technology by offering it to the South African market, concludes Ashmore.


Failed gold sector strike ends, but NUM leadership crisis continues

JOHANNESBURG – The six-week -long National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) strike at Gold Field’s South Deep, which ended yesterday, is the latest indication of the leadership crisis facing the union, which played a key role in establishing Cosatu in 1985.
The NUM scored an own goal in the way in which it handled the strike at South Deep, South Africa’s only remaining ultra-deep mine, with members falling victim to a vicious leadership squabble involving branch and national leadership.

The union’s national leaders failed to step up to the plate quickly enough to end the strike due to internal battles and scores to settle.

The branch leaders literally held members who wanted to return to work to ransom by refusing to end the strike – a bad indictment on the union whose membership has dropped from 300000 in 2011 to 187000 last year.

The national leadership moved to suspend the branch leaders following an attack on its Gauteng regional chairperson Ndlela Radebe during a mass meeting at a stadium in Randfontein last week.

The meeting ended in violence and Radebe’s stabbing as tensions boiled over.

This could have been averted by more prompt action.

The national office eventually intervened and ended the strike on Tuesday. The strike was led by the branch on November 2 to oppose the retrenchment of 1100 employees and 400 contractors at the loss-making mine.

While the intervention by the union’s national office must be lauded as a step in the right direction, it is too little too late as this has cost members hard-earned wages.

The strike couldn’t have come at a worse time and has set members on a slippery financial debt slope ahead of the festive season.

Where was the union’s national office when the members indicated that they no longer wanted to strike?

Philip Vilakazi, the NUM’s deputy president, said yesterday that both the union’s branch and mine management babhedile, meaning they had messed up, in isiZulu.

“South Deep is in s**t now, because it has isolated itself from negotiations under the auspices of the Minerals Council since 2015. That is the crux of the matter.”

However, the company said the strike wasn’t about wages but re- trenchments, which weren’t part of any collective agreement.

South Deep is rich in gold reserves but has been poorly run for a long time with gold output nowhere near where it should be.

Meanwhile, four employees have been killed in several violent incidents at Sibanye’s gold operations Kloof, Driefontein and Beatrix, where the militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union has gone on strike over higher wages.

The violent and protracted nature of the strikes in Sibanye-Stillwater and South Deep is disappointing, given that the industry is still suffering the effects of the five-month platinum belt strike and the Marikana massacre in 2012.

It is also sad, given that two years ago labour, business and the government agreed to the National Economic Development and Labour Council Accord on collective bargaining and the Code of Good Practice.

These accords were commitments that these parties had agreed, that in the event of violence and intimidation during strikes, they would do everything in their power to ensure that the strike was solved as promptly as possible.

But the reality is that the accords just look like hot air, and in the meantime employees are dying.


Eskom said to mull asset sales as billionaire Motsepe circles

Eskom is considering the sale of smaller assets as the state-owned power utility weighs solutions to a liquidity crisis that contributed to a wave of rolling blackouts, according to people familiar with the matter.

The supplier of almost all South Africa’s power is in advanced talks to sell its home-loans business, with local billionaire Patrice Motsepe’s African Rainbow Capital Investments in line to take some or all of the operation, said the sources, who asked not to be identified as the plans are still private.

The division, called Eskom Finance, has an R8.7bn ($613 million) loan book and about 16 000 customers.

Eskom didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment. African Rainbow Capital declined to comment.

Eskom is seeking funding after the company resumed scheduled power cuts in late November, following a hiatus of more than three years. The Johannesburg-based utility is struggling to stay on top of maintenance costs and the servicing of a debt pile of about R419bn, while coping with the aftermath of a string of corruption scandals during the presidency of Jacob Zuma, who was ousted earlier this year.

The utility wants the National Treasury to absorb R100 billion of its debt as part of a rescue plan, according to a fund manager. However, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has said that the company should instead go to the bond market to raise cash. Eskom should also consider selling its two large new coal-fired power stations to help repair its finances, FirstRand Chief Executive Officer Alan Pullinger said in an interview last week.

For Motsepe, the purchase of Eskom’s home loans division would help develop his financial-services business. The entrepreneur, who made the bulk of his $2.1 billion fortune from mining, is planning to start a digital-only bank, known as Tyme, by the end of the first quarter of 2019.


Coal will remain energy source for still some time


CAPE TOWN – Coal will still be part of South Africa’s energy mix of the future, although it will not enjoy the same dominance it is currently enjoying as an energy source.
This is according to Anthony Julies, deputy director general at the National Treasury.

Julies was part of a panel discussion on Vision 2030: The IRP (Integrated Resource Plan) 2018 and infrastructure – Connecting Gas and Renewable Energy, at the Energy Week 2018 summit held in Cape Town this week.

Julies said that having an energy mix in the Treasury was important and already the White Paper for 2012 – 2025 identifies various energy sources.

“We anticipated that we would have gone to the level of 30percent renewable and private participation and as far as we are concerned as the Treasury, all of these energy sources should be prioritised because it is that energy mix of the future that is inevitable,” said Julies.

The session was moderated by Andrew Herscowitz, a co-ordinator for Power Africa, US Agency for International Development.

When asked by Herscowitz to identify what that energy mix is, Julies said this would include coal, nuclear, all kinds of renewables such as solar, wind and gas.

“That is the way of the future, because coal is not and will not have in future the dominance as an energy source it has always had. Yes, it has played a particular role and Eskom has played a particular role in that context, and so Eskom in the future will not be the Eskom of the past.

“There will be a diminishing role for coal and there will be an increasing role for gas and others in the future,” said Julies.

Julies said the Treasury had guaranteed R200billion for renewable energy.

“That is what we have on our books right now and so we really ought to have had a much higher take on it right now. One could argue in a way that on the extent that we were able to deliver on the Independent Power Producer Programme has in fact led to some avoidance of load shedding,” said Julies.


The cars you can afford to buy with your salary in South Africa

Research and data group Lightstone has compiled a list of cars that you can afford on your current salary – showing how much more you’d need to earn per month to keep affording them.

The latest data from the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) light commercial vehicle sales saw a decline of 6.1% year-on-year in November 2018, while the passenger car sector experienced a 5.4% drop.

The medium and heavy commercial vehicle market, meanwhile, saw a 17.5% and 16.2% increase, respectively.

According to vehicle financing group WesBank, the drop in domestic sales could be attributed to the latest interest rate hike, which pushed lending rates up by 25 basis points – however, despite the hike and the pressures on South African consumers, the car market “remains robust”.

Wesbank said its data showed that South Africans are still keen to buy cars – though a lot of the focus has shifted to the used car market. This, the group said, is indicative of stress in the new car market amid the pressures on household disposable income.

The group’s data also showed that motorists are holding onto their cars for longer.

Naamsa, meanwhile, said that it expects the car market to remain under pressure over the medium term, anticipating only a modest recovery.

Lightstone’s data, looking at the salary changes between 2017 and 2018 needed to afford the same vehicle shows what pressure consumers have come under.

In 2017, someone who earned R18,400 a month could afford to buy a new Toyota Etios 1.5 Xi – by 2018, the salary requirement had increased by almost 9% to R20,000 a month for the same vehicle.

The data is based on current South African vehicle prices and salaries (May 2018), and assumes that people are not going to spend more than 20% of their gross monthly income on financing a car. The calculations also assumes that the cars are financed over five years at an interest rate of prime + 2%.

This trend is seen across almost all the salary bands covered by Lightstone, with only five bands coming under CPI (5.2%).

With the car price in the top band (Maserati GranCabrio) not increasing between 2017 and 2018, the required salary actually decreased.


CFO granted bail of C$7.5m

INTERNATIONAL – Huawei Technologies chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was granted bail by a Canadian court, allowing the executive to stay in her Vancouver home as she awaits a possible extradition to the US over fraud charges.

Justice William Ehrcke of the British Columbia Supreme Court agreed to release Meng on condition she post bail of C$10 million (R107.06m), including at least C$7m in cash, and submit five people who would act as “sureties” – guarantors to ensure she complies with the bail terms who would lose the cash or other assets they put up if she were to flee.

Meng broke into tears and wiped her eyes upon the announcement from the judge. The viewing gallery applauded. Meng, 46, was arrested on December 1 at the request of US authorities as she changed planes in Vancouver while on her way from Hong Kong to Mexico to Costa Rica to Argentina to France and back to China. Before the ruling, she seemed almost relieved at the prospect of a break from the punishing pace.

The mother of four is accused of conspiring to defraud banks to unwittingly clear transactions linked to Iran, in violation of US sanctions.


New Payment System to Dodge Iran Sanctions

The remaining members of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) have said they will set up a new payment system to maintain business with Iran and bypass US sanctions.

The system, the details of which are still to be determined, would allow businesses to continue trading with Iran without using dollars.

The full text of the Joint Ministerial Statement follows:

1. A Ministerial Meeting of the E3/EU+2 (China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom, with the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy) and the Islamic Republic of Iran, the participants of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was held on 24 September 2018 in New York.

The participants considered ways forward to ensure the full and effective implementation of the JCPOA in all its aspects. They also took stock of the process of finding and operationalising practical solutions for issues arising from the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the agreement and the re-imposition of sanctions lifted under the JCPOA and its Annex II, which they deeply regret.

2.​​​The meeting was chaired by the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and was attended by the E3+2 and Iran at the level of foreign ministers.

3.​​The JCPOA participants reconfirmed their commitment to its full and effective implementation in good faith and in a constructive atmosphere. They recalled that the JCPOA is a key element of the global non-proliferation architecture and a significant achievement of multilateral diplomacy endorsed unanimously by the UN Security Council through Resolution 2231.

4. ​The participants recognised that Iran has continued to fully and effectively implement its nuclear-related commitments, as confirmed by twelve consecutive reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and reiterated the need to continue to do so. Participants will continue to support the modernisation of the Arak research reactor as part of the JCPOA and the conversion of the Fordow facility in a nuclear, physics and technology centre. Participants also reaffirmed their support for projects in the area of civil nuclear co-operation on the basis of Annex III of the JCPOA.

5.​​The participants recognised that, alongside implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments, the lifting of sanctions, including the economic dividends arising from it, constitutes an essential part of the JCPOA.

6. ​Participants underlined their determination to protect the freedom of their economic operators to pursue legitimate business with Iran, in full accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2231.

7. ​The participants equally highlighted the extensive work and substantial progress undertaken to date, the intensification of technical dialogues, efforts to maintain and improve bilateral economic relations, and the mobilisation of considerable resources by all, including with third countries interested in supporting the JCPOA and in pursuing, in a timely and effective manner, the normalisation of trade and economic relations with Iran.

8. ​In this context, the participants welcomed the fact that updates to the EU’s “Blocking Statute” and the European Investment Bank’s external lending mandate to make Iran eligible entered into force on 7 August.

9. ​The participants re-affirmed their continued commitment to the objectives mentioned in the statement of the Ministerial Session of the Joint Commission of the JCPOA on 6 July 2018, in particular to pursue concrete and effective measures to secure payment channels with Iran, and the continuation of Iran’s export of oil and gas condensate, petroleum products and petrochemicals.

10. ​​Mindful of the urgency and the need for tangible results, the participants welcomed practical proposals to maintain and develop payment channels, notably the initiative to establish a Special Purpose Vehicle, to facilitate payments related to Iran’s exports (including oil) and imports, which will assist and reassure economic operators pursuing legitimate business with Iran. The participants reaffirmed their strong will to support further work aimed at the operationalisation of such a Special Purpose Vehicle as well as continued engagement with regional and international partners.

11. ​The participants stressed their determination to support practical solutions concerning the above and agreed to keep progress under close review and to convene the Joint Commission, including at Ministerial level, as appropriate in order to advance common efforts.

12. ​​The participants recalled that these initiatives are aimed at preserving the JCPOA which is in the international interest.

Volvo Halts Iran Truck Assembly under US Pressure

Scion Industrial Engineering

Swedish truckmaker AB Volvo has stopped assembling trucks in Iran because US sanctions are preventing it from being paid, a spokesman for the company said on Monday.

Volvo spokesman Fredrik Ivarsson said the trucks group could no longer get paid for any parts it shipped and had therefore decided not to operate in Iran.

“With all these sanctions and everything that the United States put (in place) … the bank system doesn’t work in Iran. We can’t get paid … So for now we don’t have any business (in Iran),” Ivarsson told Reuters by telephone.

The sanctions against Iran, reimposed on Aug. 6 by US President Donald Trump after his decision to pull out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, have forced companies across Europe to reconsider their investments there.

Before the sanctions were reimposed, Volvo had expressed an ambition for Iran to become its main export hub for the Persian Gulf region and North Africa markets.

The European Union has implemented a law to shield its companies, but the sanctions have deterred banks from doing business with Iranian firms as Washington can cut any that facilitate such transactions off from the US financial system.

Volvo was working with Saipa Diesel, part of Iran’s second-largest automaker SAIPA, which was assembling the Swedish firm’s heavy-duty trucks from kits shipped to Iran.

The head of Volvo Trucks was reported to have told Iranian media that he expected 5,000 Volvo trucks to be assembled locally in the year to March 2019 and that Saipa Diesel would begin to produce three Volvo truck models domestically.

Ivarsson did not know how much of this target had been delivered on. However, he said Volvo had no active orders in Iran as of Monday.


Iraqi Dinar may replace US Dollar in Iran-Iraq Trade

Iranian ambassador to Baghdad said Iran and Iraq are weighing plans to eliminate US dollar in trade transactions and also lift visa requirements for citizens of the two countries.

Speaking at a TV program on Saturday night, Iraj Masjedi said Tehran and Baghdad are considering plans to use Iraqi dinar for trade transactions or develop barter trade considering the banking problems caused by the US sanctions on Iran.

He also voiced Iran’s willingness to remove visa restrictions for travels between the two countries, saying the idea of lifting visa requirements for merchants and business people was discussed during Iraqi President Barham Salih’s Saturday visit to Tehran.

Masjedi highlighted the ample opportunities available for the Iranian business sector available in the Iraqi market, saying the Baghdad government welcomes foreign investments.

“The government of Iraq is seeking foreign investment in the economic field, and has now offered 1,200 projects worth $100 billion,” the ambassador added.

He assured Iranian investors of improving security in Iraq, saying the security conditions in the Arab country’s inland and border regions have been getting better since the defeat of the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group.

The Iraqi president visited Tehran on Saturday with a ranking delegation for a series of political and economic talks.

After high-profile talks between the Iranian and Iraqi delegations, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the two neighbors can increase their annual trade from the current $12 billion to $20 billion.

Rouhani also noted that the two sides discussed ways for cooperation in the energy, power and oil industry, including the extraction of petroleum, and a plan to connect the two countries’ railroad networks.


Workshop to Review HSE Trends in Oil Industry

Scion Industrial engineering

Tehran is hosting a French-Iranian workshop on health, safety and environment in oil industry by late January where the latest trends in the field will be presented to senior oil and energy executives in Iran’s oil industry.

Director General of HSE and Passive Defense Directorate of the Iranian Ministry of Petroleum Bagher Mortazavi said the workshop, arranged with the participation of French oil and gas giants including Total and Axens, will brief managers and directors of Iran’s development projects on the latest global HSE trends in oil industry.

Speaking to Shana, Mr. Mortazavi said the workshop with be held with experts from reputable oil and gas companies in the world and the HSE field in France in attendance with the coordination of the Iranian Ministry of Petroleum’s International Affairs and Trading and HSE directorates.

“Today, more than any other time, there is a need to establish a professional health, safety and environmental system, and the study of incidents in oil industry and the identification of weaknesses and areas that can be improved are among the main goals of the workshop,” he said.

The official said that the estimated capacity for the workshop is about 200 participants, adding the workshop will be held in Tehran on January 29 and 30.

Mortazavi noted that the purpose of the workshop is to introduce operational managers and directors of development projects in Iran’s oil industry with the latest HSE approaches practiced by leading oil and gas heavyweights in the world, and said: “These workshops will tell the middle managers what approaches are in managerial and technical aspects to improve their HSE performance.”

According to him, the main audience of the workshop is operational managers, and directors of repairing, engineering, technical inspection, and HSE of manufacturing companies and managers of development projects of the oil industry.

He said the workshop’s lectures address the needs of today’s oil industry in the field of HSE.

“The 14 lectures during the workshop are designed to cover topics that shed light on the entire cycle of oil industry facilities from design to exploitation. HSE management and cultural promotion, safety engineering and risk management, prevention of major damage and management of physical assets and environmental issues are the main fields to be addressed by the lectures.”

He further said that representatives from TOTAL, AXENS, IFP, ARTELIA, B.V., SOFREGAS, KERDOS ENERGY, AMETHYSTE, GAS VIEWER, PATH CONTROL, and the French Oil Industry Safety Center (GESIP) are to attend the English-run workshop.

Mortazavi added that his directorate is planning a training program for the oil industry accident scene commanders in the near future.