THE country’s sole ammonium nitrate fertiliser producer, Sable Chemicals, is currently operating at below 40% because of wrangles involving a $30 million debt to Zesa Holdings.
The power utility, which in the past resorted to switching off Sable Chemicals completely over the debt, is reported to have significantly reduced power supplies to the Kwekwe-based plant forcing the company to shut down some of its electrolysis units.
Sources at the company told NewsDay that Sable Chemicals, which has 14 electrolysis units, was operating only four because of limited power supplies owing to the tiff over the debt.
“We have 14 units; four are down and need major maintenance work, but the other 10 can go online if we are given adequate power supplies by Zesa. Currently, the power we get from Zesa is sufficient to operate only four units,” said the source.
Sable Chemicals needs 115 megawatts (MW) per hour to run its plant at 100%, but the company says it is only getting 40MW per hour, which is only sufficient to power four units.
“We would need 92MW of power to put all 10 units on line with each unit producing 1 400 cubic metres of hydrogen per hour. If the power problem is solved, we would be able to produce 14 000 cubic metres of hydrogen an hour. The situation is better because there is no total shutdown of the plant like what was happening in the past,” said the source.
Sable Chemicals chief executive officer Jack Murehwa was not immediately available for comment, but has previously conceded that the company was facing challenges over the power debt.
Sable Chemicals buys power from Zesa at subsidised rates with the difference supposed to be settled by government.
Murehwa has on several occasions indicated that his company religiously paid its portion and urged the power utility to approach government for payment of the other part.
Harare lawyer Tendai Masawi has already filed a High Court application seeking to attach Sable Chemicals’ property over the debt.