Coega investor, Air Products, today unveiled the towering “heart” of its new Eastern Cape air separation unit, marking a milestone in progress towards commissioning of the R300-million plant by the end of the year.
At 32 metres tall and weighing in at 56 tons, the cold box is a new landmark in the Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ).
It is the key component in the company’s cryogenic air separation process which will provide Eastern Cape industry with secure supply of industrial gases.
The plant will produce 110 tons per day of liquid nitrogen and oxygen, and is built with the capacity to scale up production in line with market demand, Air Products managing director Mike Hellyar said today.
“The new air separation unit will enhance the supporting infrastructure for industrial development in the Eastern Cape and support business sustainability in the region through stimulating down-stream job creation, strengthening supply chain linkages and contributing towards the critical mass needed to position the Eastern Cape as an investment destination of choice,” he said.
Hellyar said the availability of a stable supply of industrial gas completed the quadrant of utilities as the fourth utility (water, electricity, fuel and gas) essential to doing business, and “opens the doors for future industrial growth”.
He said the new air separation unit represented Air Products’ confidence in the region’s economic growth prospects, signalled particularly by the growing pipeline of investment into the Coega IDZ.
“We made a strategic investment decision based on thorough market analysis, which showed growing demand for industrial and specialty gases in a number of sectors in the Eastern Cape. Our new plant gives existing and future customers the certainty of a stable gas supply, supporting competitiveness by enabling process innovation and efficiencies.
“The availability of this secure supply also enables us to bring the benefits of industrial gas to non-traditional users, stimulating demand and opening up new markets, with positive knock-on impacts on industrial activity and economic growth in the region,” he said.
Hellyar said this was in line with Air Products’ strategy to identify and prioritise growing market sectors, and then develop long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with customers within these markets.
Construction to date had been injury- and incident-free, he said, and the company was firmly on schedule to commission the plant and have gas flowing to customers in the final quarter of 2014.
Construction and installation of the plant has created about 120 jobs as well as business opportunities for local small and medium enterprises (SMEs), consultants and contractors.
Hellyar said Air Products was committed to directing as much as possible of its investment in construction of the plant to local entities and expertise in the Eastern Cape. Most of the engineering and design of the civil works were performed by local consultants, and 100% of the construction work was awarded to Eastern Cape contractors.
Air Products On-sites General Manager Robert Richardson said the high-tech, energy efficient plant was a feat of engineering excellence that showcased South African-driven technological innovation.
The Air Products South Africa engineering team oversaw the design of the air separation unit and its components, most of which were manufactured in South Africa, including the cooling tower, storage tanks, nitrogen recycle compressor, electrical motor and ambient air vaporizers.
Richardson said the new plant incorporated technological innovations and the latest available air separation technology designed for both optimal energy efficiency and maximum product output capacity.
The use of computer-aided engineering (CAE) tools such as computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and finite element (FE) software to optimize rotating equipment design enabled higher equipment efficiencies and minimised electricity consumption, he said.
The cold box, which took 36 months from design to completion, arrived in the Port of Ngqura in mid-February. After on-site inspection, and installation of ladders, access platforms and valves, it was manoeuvred from its horizontal position to upright placement on a purpose-built concrete foundation with the aid of specialised heavy-lift cranes.
“Although the final lifting and positioning process took just 20 minutes, it was the culmination of a six month process of developing a detailed lifting plan and rigging study, and two days of intense on-site preparation,” Richardson said.
The highly power-efficient plant will produce liquid oxygen and nitrogen, and house strategic product storage facilities for critical customers in the Eastern Cape. The plant will service diverse sectors including automotive and other manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, agro-processing, food and beverage, and renewable energy.
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