Southdowns reaps the rewards of natural gas network

Southdowns Estate in Irene, Centurion is reaping the rewards of its one-of-a-kind internal gas network.  Implemented in 2006, Southdowns’ gas network has proved a real boon for the estate in recent years, especially in the wake of a slew of electricity price hikes. So says Jack Prentice, MD of Southdowns’ Management Services (SMS).  

Southdown’s natural gas story is an interesting one. Noting the way the winds were blowing on the electricity front, SMS took advantage of the fact that the estate lies within less than two kilometres of Sasol’s main gas pipeline and approached Sasol with a view to establishing a gas connection. SMS was successful and concluded a long term supply agreement with Sasol.

Agreement in place, gas engineering company VGI Inc. designed Southdowns’ gas pipelines and reticulation. Seven kilometres of high density polyethylene (HDPE) pipeline was then installed throughout the estate at a total cost of approximately R11 million, making Southdowns the first and - to this day - only residential estate in South Africa to reticulate natural gas to its owners. The Gas Company has since been contracted to technically manage the network as well as meter installations and house connections.

In terms of the source of the gas, Prentice explains that Sasol derives its natural gas largely from the gas fields of Mozambique. Once harvested, this gas is transported via a gas pipeline from Komatipoort to Secunda from which point Sasol distributes it through their gas network.

In Southdowns’ case, the gas is reticulated at 1- 2 bar (100 – 200) Kpa (kilopascals) and is supplied to each site at 2Kpa. At the time of going to print, Southdowns’ natural gas price was roughly half the going electricity price and was significantly cheaper than liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) which is linked to the oil price.

In terms of the estate itself, Southdowns has enjoyed considerable success since the sale of its first phase in 2005. A mixed use estate, Southdowns covers an area measuring approximately 100 hectares and currently comprises 381 freehold properties and 49 townhouses.

Residents can make use of the adjoining Irene Country Club, Southdowns College, Southdowns Shopping Centre (which features a state-of-the-art medical centre) and the neighbouring Irene Dairy Farm. A Gautrain bus stop has also been established on the estate’s periphery.  

In October 2011, Southdowns launched its final phase. The sale of the first extension of this phase - which comprised 73 stands - went “exceedingly well” says Prentice. The last portion of the final phase is now about to be launched. Under this banner, 48 stands measuring between 750sqm’s and 1,500sqm’s as well as 70 cluster houses and approximately 110 townhouses will be brought to market.

Of the 430 residences already completed, 275 freehold properties and all 49 townhouses are already connected to the gas network. According to Prentice, the number of gas users is increasing rapidly as the merits of the natural gas system become clear and more residents - who initially had reservations about the system - convert to gas.

Another perk which has arisen from the estate’s gas network is that owners can use ‘Eurogas’ appliances as the gas being supplied to the estate is similar to that of Eurogas which is methane rich and operates at a certain pressure. A wide range of high quality Eurogas stoves, heaters, lights and even fireplaces have been designed which, given the similarity between the two gases can be used without having to be adjusted.

From an environmental standpoint, Prentice explains that through utilising natural gas, Southdowns is doing the environment a favour as natural gas is widely regarded as a ‘clean’ energy source. Notably, the impact on the environment through the installation of the pipelines was minimal.

The system has also drastically reduced Southdowns’ dependence on the national electricity grid. Indeed, the impact of the gas network has been a “revelation” says Prentice who adds that as much as 30 % of the estate’s energy needs are now provided by natural gas during peak electricity usage periods.

Says Prentice: “Suffice to say the investment in Southdowns’ gas network has been a resounding success not only for Southdowns’ stakeholders but in the broader context too. We are proud of what we have achieved and believe our gas network really sets us apart.”

Prentice believes that given the success of the network at Southdowns and the threat of spiralling electricity prices, more estates will look at implementing similar networks in the future which, while initially expensive, will yield long term financial and ecological benefits.

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