Top empowered business leader of the year fuels the economy
MTHOKO MBATHA is the Group Chief Executive Officer of Spring Lights Gas (Pty) Ltd (SLG) the second largest natural gas trading company in South Africa. He has served the company in various capacities since joining it 14 years ago and has been instrumental in facilitating its growth.
SLG commenced operations in July 2002 in Durban South and has since grown through connecting various industrial and commercial end-users to piped natural gas. Currently, SLG supplies a number of industrial and commercial companies situated in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), the Free State and Gauteng through a well-built pipeline network. In addition, since 2015, its subsidiary SLCNG (Pty) Ltd has supplied Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) on a portable basis to markets situated far from the network. SLCNG has since grown to become one of the largest suppliers of CNG in South Africa. SLG has been operational in Gauteng since May 2016 and is currently the second largest gas trader in the province.
Much of the company’s growth has been fuelled by the demand for natural gas, an environmentally friendly energy source that is cleaner than coal. Gas is the cleanest-burning hydrocarbon, producing around half the carbon dioxide (CO2) and just one tenth of the air pollutants generated by coal.
Natural gas (in the form of CNG and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)) can be used for a variety of applications including but not limited to power (electricity) generation, thermal heating and in some cases as a chemical feedstock. In addition, it is globally considered to be one of the best energy solutions for fuelling vehicles, including forklifts and buses.
The increased use of gas allows local companies to participate in addressing the national agenda around power. Currently, 65% of the country’s energy relies on coal, which is of concern as this resource is depleting. Power stations that produce electricity from coal are becoming increasingly inefficient both in terms of output and cost. Relatively speaking, it is also much quicker and cheaper to build a gas power plant compared to a coal power plant.
“With rising fuel costs, converting to gas has direct economic benefits to end-users, as it is cheaper than diesel, petrol and liquefied petroleum gas,” says Mbatha.
“SLG’s success has been fuelled by our customer-centric approach. We tailor gas delivery solutions for each customer. Their requirements spearhead our offering and we are able to respond to their needs swiftly. To ensure effective use of our product, we offer them training on combustion engineering, and most importantly, on the safe and efficient use of gas,” he adds.
In line with the company’s ambition to further grow its market in Gauteng, it has established an office in Bryanston where it employs specialist business developers. The company is working towards enhancing its capacity and gas availability to ensure that it has sufficient natural gas to meet additional demand.
SLG prides itself on being a black owned and managed company. As such it ensures that its customers can consolidate their natural gas procurement to take advantage of its B-BBEE ownership and management.
Mbatha is committed to the company’s role in alleviating South Africa’s high unemployment rate, which it attributes to a lack of requisite skills, amongst others.
Consequently, SLG’s corporate social investment programmes support the advancement of these skills at historically disadvantaged community schools by donating resources such as science and computer hardware and sponsoring laboratories for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) programmes.