Sasol Three (Pty) Ltd.
Secunda, South Africa

Sasol III Oil-from-Coal Complex - EPC

Fluor performed the engineering, and as prime contractor, had overall responsibility for Sasol Three.

Sasol awarded the Phase III contract to Fluor before Sasol II was completed. The oil-from-coal complex was a replica of Sasol II and was to convert 50,000 tons per day of low-grade bituminous coal into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, and other petroleum and chemical products.

Client's Challenge

Sasol achieved substantial cost and schedule savings by the “Next Exact" duplication of Sasol Two in the northeastern highlands (Transvaal) region of South Africa.

The Sasol Three Complex was built adjacent to Sasol Two to optimize the use of construction, workers, community, and facilities. Sasol Three was also based on the commercially proven synthol technology developed at Sasol One and Two.

The two plants include 100 heaters, 2,000 vessels, 2,000 heat exchangers, 3,000 pumps, and miles of piping. The plants consume 1,500 megawatts of electrical power, and each 750-megawatt system includes enough power cable to run from Los Angeles to New York and back to Kansas City.

Sasol negotiated contracts with all previous principal contractors for obvious cost advantages and to meet the compressed construction schedule.

The South Africans were willing to share their 25 years of coal-conversion expertise with the United States. Working with American companies, Sasol processed test batches of Texas lignite and sub-bituminous Wyoming coal through its facility at Sasolburg to determine whether the process was applicable to American coals. Sasol representatives also consulted with American companies to investigate coal conversion technology.

Fluor's Solution

Fluor was retained as prime contractor, with overall responsibility for the project.

Five days after Fluor's contract was finalized, actual construction work began. Initial activities concentrated on temporary facilities and site preparation.

The gasification sections of the two plants incorporated 72 Lurgi gasifiers, each weighing about 140 metric tonnes. Fifteen Sasol synthol reactors using the Fischer-Tropsch process completed the liquefaction. The two plants consumed about 27 million metric tonnes of coal a year. The coal mine was the largest in the world, with production of four mineshaft systems dedicated to the two plants.

Sasol Two converts about 50,000 tons per day of low grade bituminous coal into a variety of petroleum and chemical products. Fluor's involvement in the project began almost immediately after its announcement. Because of the duplication of Sasol Two, engineering was carried out by fewer than half the number of Fluor employees that were involved in Sasol Two. A minimum of engineering was required, and labor hours were significantly reduced, allowing construction to begin earlier in the project life cycle.

The Sasol Three project was completed two years faster than it took to build Sasol Two.

The build involved 25,000 workers and was finished in 1983.


Sasol Three was based on commercially proven synthol technology that was developed at Sasol One and Two, including process trains and storage. Sasol Two and Three cover six square miles.

The project achieved 20 million safe work hours in 1982, which was a world safety record at the time.