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Energy & Chemical

Sector overview

The energy industry consists of companies involved in the production and sale of energy. This includes companies which extract, manufacture, refine and distribute fuel. Other industries which come under the umbrella of the energy industry are the petroleum industry, the coal industry, the nuclear power industry and the renewable energy industry. The environmental impacts of this industry depend on the specific sector in question. The coal industry’s contribution to water, soil and air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions is well documented. While the renewable energy industry’s part in ameliorating such problems is an equally topical issue, this industry has its own environmental impacts, for example the harm which can be caused to birds by wind farms.

The chemical industry consists of companies which produce industrial chemicals. South Africa’s chemical industry fabricates a wide variety of products, from fuel and plastics to pharmaceuticals.1 Synthetic coal, natural gas-based liquid fuels and petrochemicals are of most importance to the South African chemical industry.2 Sasol, AECI and Dow Sentrachem are the largest companies in this sector in South Africa.3 The chemicals sector can have a significant negative effect on the environment. Processing of materials can release hazardous pollutants, large accidents and major spills can occur releasing chemicals into the environment, and hazardous substances released by the chemicals industry can lead to direct toxological effects on humans, either from short or long term exposure.4

Primary Legislation

National Environmental Management Act
National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act
National Environmental Management: Waste Act
National Water Act
Environment Conservation Act

Pursuant to these pieces of legislation, companies are required to have licences relating to the relevant activities under the Acts. Minimum emission standards were published in Government Notice No. 248 in 2010.5 Licences granted to companies under the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act must at least incorporate these standards and deadlines were introduced for meeting those standards.


Licences and authorisations

View a summary of licences and authorisations required in order to operate lawfully in the Energy & Chemical sector.