Air Products’ 54.7m long cold box has been offloaded in Richards Bay harbour, South Africa. The largest cold box ever brought to South Africa was to be taken to Air Products’ facility in Newcastle, in KwaZulu-Natal, due to increasing oxygen demand from steel maker Arcelor Mittal.

At a cost of over R280-million, the expansion needed at the Air Products Newcastle facility is expected to be complete late in the year with the cold box scheduled to come on stream by the end of 2008.

For the last 38 years Air Products’ Newcastle plant has been providing a continuous supply of large volumes of oxygen to the ArcelorMitttal steel plant. but ArcelorMittal needs a substantially increased oxygen supply to its blast furnace No 5.

The R30-million cold box is being brought into the country fully assembled from Air Products’ Acrefare branch in North Wales, UK. Acrefare manufactures and exports industrial gas plant and equipment all over the world, including process equipment for air separation, natural gas liquefaction, hydrogen purification and other gas processing applications.

The logistics involved in transporting the 168-t cold box were not without complexity, but a worldwide shortage of technical skills meant that, rather than ship out the components for local assembly, building a complete distillation column in the UK made sense.

The components of the column are enclosed in a robust steel box, which is 54,7 m long, 5,5 m wide and 4.4m high. From the factory in Wales UK, it had to be trucked to the port and loaded onto the specialist heavy-lift ship Pantanal. The ship is based in the Ukraine, and is staffed by a specialised crew, including riggers and other heavy-lift specialists.

As could be expected, progress from port to plant was slow, as the trailers travel at 20 km/h on the open road and 10 km/h over bridges and through towns.
“We worked closely with the National Roads Agency, local authorities and police forces to ensure the safe and smooth transit of our loads,” says Air Products projects manager Harry van Lieshout.