SOUTH AFRICA – Multinational agribusiness Wilmar Processing has completed the operational phase 1 of its R1.27-billion (US$68M) edible oils refining plant, Wilmar Processing SA, located in the Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone (RBIDZ) Special Economic Zone, KwaZulu.

Theiva Muthu, Wilmar Processing South Africa’s General Manager, explained that the port’s capacity to handle large vessels was a critical factor in the decision.

The completion of Phase 1 includes four tanks with a 40,000-ton capacity for crude palm oil and a 2.6 km pipeline from the port to the tank farm.

Other completed infrastructure includes pipelines to the loading bay, water, steam, and air lines, fire protection, boiler, and compressor systems.

Phase 2, which is scheduled to be completed in December this year, will see the tank farm capacity increase to 80 000 t of crude palm oil, and the dry fractionation and packaging lines will be commissioned.

The refinery will also be commissioned to refine crude palm oil into various products and to package the products for sale to retail customers.

The completed plant will have a 500 t/ day refinery, a 500 t/day fractionator and a 6 800 m2 warehouse. It will also have an electrical substation, a 10 t/h oil-fired boiler, a 250 kℓ/day water treatment plant, and a 600 kℓ/day effluent treatment plant, as well as a nitrogen generator and a compressor

The strategic choice of location leverages Richards Bay’s deep-water port, facilitating efficient importation of raw materials and crude oils via a direct pipeline from the port to the tank farm.

On December 7, Wilmar successfully unloaded its first Panamax-sized vessel, transferring its contents to 40,000-ton storage tanks in under 24 hours. This move diversifies Wilmar’s port usage, complementing its Randfontein plant’s operations, primarily utilizing the Port of Durban.

Wilmar Group, with over 400 soybean crushing plants globally, brings extensive expertise in the commercial crushing of various oil seeds and the refining and fractionation of edible oils.

The company’s product portfolio includes oleo-chemicals, specialty fats, palm biodiesel, and consumer pack oils.

The integration of eight local enterprises into Wilmar’s supply chain underlines the company’s commitment to local economic development.

These enterprises span sectors such as agro-processing, chemicals, and logistics, enhancing industrial diversification and supporting local business growth.

To complement our use of imported crude palm oil, we will source at least 20% of our raw materials locally, specifically sunflower oil,” said Muthu.

This initiative will support approximately 30,000 tons per year of local sunflower oil production, providing significant opportunities for local farmers and strengthening South Africa’s agricultural supply chain.

KwaZulu-Natal Leader of Government Business and MEC for Economic Development, Tourism, and Environmental Affairs, Siboniso Duma, along with Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) Deputy Minister Nomalungelo Gina, toured the operationalized Phase 1 of the Wilmar plant.

Duma praised Wilmar for its investment in South Africa and highlighted the region’s commitment to creating a conducive business environment.

We are supporting Wilmar thoroughly and holistically, but our people want to be involved in the value chains, and the company is duty-bound to complement local businesses,” Duma stated.

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