A day on site at Sasol Secunda
I finally saw the monstrous cooling towers in the distance, after taking the scenic route through the farmlands, I guessed I was almost there, but alas 15 minutes later I arrived at the Sasol Secunda complex, which was even bigger than I could have imagined.
With many large refineries and 8 large cooling towers, the Sasol complex expands across 4kms, the enormity and scale of the complex is truly impressive. I signed in at Charlie One, which is the entrance to this fantasy land of concrete, steel and hard hats, and made my way to our site office. Here I met an incredible team of friendly and welcoming people. From Kamo my tour guide for the day, to Faith and Portia who keep the boys in line, to the rest of the team, Desmond, Yaseen, Bradley and Alvin, the IWC team are a very tight bunch who enjoy their work.
After my safety induction I kitted up in my PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), consisting of overalls, gloves, safety boots, goggles, gloves and hard hat… I was finally ready to meet our client, Marius for the site visit. Kamo who is the project manager and client liaison, escorted me onto the site. The site walk is done each Wednesday and is an inspection of the site and lay down area’s where all the equipment and materials are kept. Sasol has very strict safety and neatness controls and I was impressed at how immaculate the working area was. Marius was impressed with our team and other than one plastic bag, we passed the inspection.
From there it was off to inspect the work being conducted in the cooling tower, while walking, I breathed in the crisp, 3 degree air and wondered about the very distinctive smell… apparently it is called, “the Secunda smell”, it’s a little stinky to say the least. I was reminded of a story I read about how the moon smelled, apparently a little like a gun after it had just been fired… well, that is exactly what Secunda smells like.
As we entered the tower, I was amazed at the enormity of the tower, which is about 160 meters high and was built 40 years ago. We had previously done work on the tower 13 years ago and here we were, at it again. The project entails replacing the splash grids that have slowly built up scale from the masses of water gushing down to cool the water in the tower. As the tower needs to remain in operation, we needed to conduct the work on a “live” tower, which is very dangerous. To top it all, the water and sludge at the base of the tower prevented us from erecting scaffolding on the base, so we had to erect an ingenious pontoon system, which is a cluster of plaster containers on which the scaffolding can be erected and from here the work can be conducted.. kinda like a large raft with scaffolding but way more stable. This is a layman’s version of what it looks like ☺
The team have been busy for a while and the project is expected to take another month to completely remove all the splash grid fill and replace with new fill for Area 1. Certainly, a very messy and labour intensive job as all the splash grids have to be removed and transported by hand. The entire project will be completed in November 2021.
I must say I was suitably impressed with the team and proud to be a part of something this impressive. As Marketing Manager at IWC, I have certainly learnt a lot about this very rewarding and tough industry, without the expertise, skills and dedication of IWC, this project would certainly not have been possible. I can’t wait for my next site visit, the only thing I’ll change is the direct route via the N17 to Secunda instead of the scenic, pothole ridden road through the farmlands.