Industrial gas continues to play a pivotal role in the growth of Eastern Cape industry, according to Air Products South Africa. Following the launch of its R300 million air separation unit (ASU) in the Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) in November last year, the company has ensured an uninterrupted supply of industrial gases to the local market for the past six months.
As the first to market in the Eastern Cape, Air Products is able to deliver security of supply of liquid oxygen and nitrogen, meeting the needs of local industry and offering improved levels of customer service, according to Pierre Fourie, Sales Manager: Eastern Cape for Air Products.
"As gas is a vital part of virtually every industrial process, the importance of security of supply cannot be overstated. We are able to match current market demand and have capacity to scale up production in line with growing demand in the region," he says.
The industrial gas company's air separation unit supplies liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen in bulk by road tankers across the Eastern Cape, and provides on-site back-up storage for critical customers. It also supplies the full range of industrial and specialty gases. Depending on volume requirements and specific applications, gases are supplied in cylinders, mini-tanks, maxi-tanks and CryoEase.
In addition to the 'peace of mind' benefits of secure supply, Air Products South Africa has a long track record of working hand-in-hand with its customers to find innovative solutions to industrial challenges, according to Arthi Govender, the company's Market Research and Strategy Manager. "We are able to assist industry in optimising processes and introducing new technologies that support energy and process efficiency, bringing significant benefits to the bottom line."
She cites the company's thermo-compressor technology that it recently installed for ArcelorMittal in Newcastle as an example of this. The solution is now set to roll out globally as ground-breaking technology supporting energy efficiency and cost savings.
The Coega ASU represents the latest development in air separation technology in order to deliver optimal energy efficiency and maximum product output capacity, at a reasonable cost of production. The ASU was one of two new plants launched by Air Products in South Africa in 2014, as part of its long-term capital investment pipeline of R2 billion aimed at establishing a solid national gas production and supply footprint.
The company has identified a number of markets for growth, including automotive and component manufacturing and fabrication, food and beverage, agro-processing and their related value chains. These are aligned with the sectors prioritised for growth in the Eastern Cape's provincial industrial development strategy.
"Liquid oxygen and nitrogen play a key role in the metals processing sector for cutting and laser applications. Metals processing supports diverse industries, including the manufacture of renewable energy components – another key sector where the Eastern Cape is driving industrial growth," says Fourie. "In the field of agro-processing, identified as a key growth area in the Coega IDZ, oxygen has many uses, such as in fish and prawn farming (aquaculture). Oxygen aerates and improves water quality."
Govender says the company's supply chain efficiencies, developments in air separation technology and growing customer base are complementing Air Products' long-standing footprint in the region. "We believe that through our investment in Coega, we have not only proven our commitment to our customers in the Eastern Cape region, but we have also established our gas as pivotal to a multitude of industrial processes. The quality of our technology, coupled with our long-term security of supply will make a positive contribution to economic growth of the region for many years to come."