Launch of multi-million pound research venture

Thursday 31 October 2002

A multi-million pound research partnership between a South African petrochemicals company and the University of St Andrews has been officially launched today (Thursday 31 October 2002).

The Sasol Technology Research Laboratory – a joint venture between Johannesburg-based Sasol Limited and the University’s School of Chemistry – will undertake research into homogeneous catalysis – a process of making chemicals faster, cheaper and greener, leading to chemical feedstocks for plastics, detergents and other commercial products. The University will render a range of services to the laboratory.

Together, the £2.5 million partnership has created one of the largest groups in Europe working in this field. The collaboration is also thought to be unique in Scottish higher education.

Amongst others, the official opening was attended by around 70 guests representing Sasol, the University, the South African High Commission and Scottish Enterprise Fife.

Creating around 25 new PhD research jobs and providing placement opportunities for St Andrews students, the partnership has been welcomed by industry leaders.

Chief Executive of Scottish Enterprise Fife Joe Noble said, “Sasol’s decision to base this world-class research and development laboratory in Scotland is another step towards retaining and attracting some of our most gifted scientists and also maximizes the commercial opportunities from research being undertaken at the University. This will ultimately have a positive impact on the Scottish economy and I am delighted that Scottish Enterprise Fife has been able to make such a positive contribution to this process.

“The arrival of Sasol also forms an important part of the commercialisation agreement we have with the University which aims to generate Scottish based businesses from the cutting edge research being undertaken in St. Andrews. The University has already shown itself to be a world- class institution by achieving top ratings for its Chemistry and Biology departments and now it has cemented and strengthened that reputation by attracting Sasol.”

Sasol’s global success is underpinned by world class technology and half a century of research and development.

Pieter Cox, Chief Executive emphasised that the alliance with St Andrews will complement Sasol’s research and development capabilities in Southern Africa – “The new laboratory at St Andrews enhances Sasol’s capability to become a world leader in this important area of technology. This facility will also be used to train South Africans in an effort to build local competency. To alleviate the possibility of a shortage of skilled manpower and the difficulty associated with attracting world class researchers, Sasol decided to leverage its research capabilities through alliances with international universities. Our research and development of new and advanced technologies will continue to be based in South Africa. This is expected to make a substantial contribution to development on the African continent in support of Nepad. ”

Dr Brian Lang, Principal and Vice- Chancellor of the University said, “I strongly welcome this new collaboration which is an endorsement of the top-level contribution which the University can offer to industry on a national and international playing field. It is a credit to our scientific expertise and a testament to our ability to contribute to economic competitiveness that Sasol chose to locate in St Andrews rather than elsewhere in the UK or Europe and I hope that this collaboration will be the first of many such partnerships between the University and industry.”

Professor David Cole-Hamilton of the University’s School of Chemistry said, “We in the School of Chemistry are delighted with the start Sasol have made in St Andrews. Jannie Steynberg, the Manager of the Laboratory has bent over backwards to ensure that the labs only impact positively on what we are doing in Chemistry and, in appointing Bob Tooze as the Research Manager, Sasol have gained one of the most experienced people in the UK in research in industrial homogenous catalysis. The School of Chemistry is already seeing the benefits. Bob Tooze is already lecturing in our undergraduate programme. A new technical post has been created within the School and Sasol are funding, in full or in part, several projects in the School. Proposals for funding have been enhanced by contributions from Sasol and some of their new employees have been trained in St Andrews.”

According to Research Director Dr Bob Tooze, the initial signs are very encouraging – “Despite only occupying the new labs in August, we are making progress on all fronts. Technically, our programmes are producing exciting tangible results. This rapid progress has been greatly facilitated by access to the University’s analytical capability. Together, we are also pursuing ways of further upgrading the infrastructure and last, but certainly not least, we find it to be an environment conducive to research. We look forward to an increasingly mutually beneficial partnership.”


Reporters/photographers wishing to attend the opening event should report to the Sasol Technology Research Laboratory on the top floor of the School of Chemistry, North Haugh, St Andrews on Thursday 31 October 2002.

The event starts at 11.30am – a plaque will be unveiled by University Principal Dr Brian Lang and Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive of Sasol Pieter Cox at 11.45am.

There will be no facility for filming/photography within the laboratory itself.

For further information, please contact:

University of St Andrews Claire Grainger, Press Office, Tel ++1334-462529/462530, Mobile 07730 415 015, Email cg24@st-

Sasol Brenda Kali, Group Communications and Public Affairs, Tel + 27 11 441 3337, Cell 083 653 5959, Email [email protected]

Professor Mike Green, Tel +27-16- 9602906

Scottish Enterprise Fife Alan Garland, Tel ++ 1592 623085, Email [email protected]

Sasol, established in 1950, is a world-leader in the commercial production of liquid fuels and chemicals from coal and crude oil. The company has a turnover of more than US$6-billion per year and is listed on the JSE Securities Exchange (SOL) with a market capitalisation of more than US$5-billion and on NASDAQ (SASOY) in New York. Sasol manufactures more than 200 fuel and chemical products at its plants in Sasolburg and Secunda in South Africa as well as at several other plants abroad. Its products are exported to more than 90 countries around the world. The company has developed world-leading technology for the commercial production of synthetic fuels and chemicals from low-grade coal as well as the conversion of natural gas to environment-friendly diesel and chemicals. Internet address: Catalyst research focuses on the formulation and behaviour of compounds to promote certain chemical reactions. Sasol’s Fischer-Tropsch processes for the conversion of synthesis gas to liquid fuels and chemicals rely very heavily on the application of suitable catalysts to enhance the reaction rate and selectivity of these chemical reactions. Homogeneous catalysis utilises soluble transition metal catalysts in a liquid phase reaction as opposed to the conventional heterogeneous catalysts which are generally based on a supported solid catalyst in a gas phase reaction at high temperatures and pressures. It has the advantages of generally milder operating conditions, far more selective reactions and very high catalyst activity.

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