INDUSTRIAL gas products company Air Products on Wednesday said it would invest R300m to build an air-separation unit in the Eastern Cape’s Port Elizabeth Coega Industrial Development Zone.
The unit will be the first of its kind in the province and is aimed at localising gas supply in the province. Air Products, a non-listed company, spends a large amount of resources moving gas from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth.
The Coega Industrial Development Zone is projected to take decades to complete. In the past few years, about 20 operating investors have set up factories and other sites in the area.
The air-separation unit is expected to be in operation by the third quarter of next year, Air Products MD Mike Hellyar said.
“When our feasibility study into the Eastern Cape showed that there was a high level of customer demand in this region, we spared no time,” he said. “This reality set the wheels in motion for what is now a very proud R300m (investment) into South Africa’s leading industrial development zone,” he said.
The investment will allow Air Products, the largest tonnage supplier of industrial gases in South Africa, to supply its Eastern Cape customers directly, offering a bouquet of process gases including oxygen, nitrogen, argon and carbon dioxide.
Afrox, another commercial gas company, said in March this year that it would develop a business campus and air-separation unit in Port Elizabeth, also to serve customers in the Eastern Cape. MD Brett Kimber said the new unit and campus, scheduled for completion by 2015, would save Afrox transport costs and make it less reliant on national oil company PetroSA and other businesses in the area. The unit and related costs also came to R300m.
The Coega area’s development corporation has been criticised for its inability to land big projects and see them completed on time. PetroSA wants to build Africa’s biggest oil refinery in the area. It has clinched a partnership with China’s state-owned Sinopec petroleum and petrochemicals conglomerate.
• Anderson’s trip to Coega was sponsored by Air Products.