Sable Chemicals crying out for capital injection

HARARE - Sable Chemicals — Zimbabwe’s sole manufacture of Ammonium Nitrate (AN) fertilizer — is crying out for serious investment to be able to hit full production capacity.

The company is a key institution in providing the country’s nitrogenous fertilizer needs.

Sable Chemicals’ chief executive officer (CEO) Bothwell Nyajeka told the Daily News that the company had the capacity to meet national demand of between 160 000 and 180 000 tonnes of AN per year when running at full throttle.

At full capacity, Sable produces 240 000 tonnes of AN per year, which means if capacitated can meet local demand and produce more for export.

However, it is currently managing just 36 000, which means it is operating at 25 percent capacity.

Nyajeka disclosed that they suffer frequent shortages of inputs at their production plant in Kwekwe, and often resort to shutting down the plant and run heavy losses in the process.

He, however, feels that with adequate capital injection, Sable can produce enough AN for the country, with excess going towards the export market.

“We need substantial capital in order to actualise our plans to increase out plant utilisation capacity within the next three or four years.

“We sometimes switch off the plant and if we want to put that into proper perspective, each day we close, we lose at least 300 tonnes because we produce 300 tonnes of fertilizer per day,” said Nyajeka.

He added that the company normally runs out of ammonia gas, a key ingredient in the production of AN, without which manufacture halts.

Sable used to produce its own ammonia gas through the Haber Process, but the plant was decommissioned in 2015 after it was realised that it had become very unsustainable due to its power guzzling nature.

The Haber Process is a procedure of combining nitrogen from the air with hydrogen derived mainly from natural gas (methane) into ammonia.

However, in the case of Sable Chemicals, because there was no natural gas available, they had to first obtain hydrogen from water through a process called electrolysis, selling the by-product, oxygen to the now defunct Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company and to hospitals where it would be required for medical reasons.

The company is now importing ammonia gas from South Africa, which gets it as a by-product of coal processing.

Nyajeka said they looked forward to investing in 64 rail tankers in order to be able to move bigger quantities of ammonia gas.

Currently, the company has 107 rail tankers which move 45 000 tonnes of ammonia gas per year.

The additional 64 tankers will enable it to move 30 720 tonnes more per year.

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.