Afrox has officially opened its new R200-million air separation unit (ASU) at its Pretoria West site. This is part of a R1.5-billion three-year programme to boost customer service levels.

This is in order to support the company’s growth strategy in South Africa and emerging markets of sub-Saharan Africa, says Afrox Managing Director, Brett Kimber.

This newly commissioned ASU is designed and built to exacting global standards. The atmospheric gases plant will produce high purity oxygen, nitrogen and argon to service the merchant and medical markets in this major bulk business area, as well as in neighboring countries.

As a result of market changes, in 1999 Afrox discontinued the supply of gaseous oxygen and nitrogen and operated one of its two 750 tonnes-per-day (tpd) ASUs at its Pretoria West facility in maximum turn-down mode. Operating these large plants in turn-down mode is highly energy inefficient, and taking into account the age of the plant, Afrox saw this as an ideal opportunity to replace an existing plant, originally commissioned in 1987, with more modern and efficient technology by installing a new 200 tpd ASU, says Kimber.

Afrox’s parent company, The Linde Group’s engineering division was responsible for the design, supply and building of the new ASU, importing the best in modern technologies to the South African industry. The ASU is remotely controlled from a global operations facility in the UK, ensuring optimal output and quality products. This also included integrating an existing nitrogen liquefier unit into the new ASU at the site and linked production from the ASU to existing cluster storage tanks. The cooling water system, the electrical supply and instrumentation have also been upgraded.

Three cold boxes, an air compressor, coolers, pump skids and PPU skids were shipped from Germany to Durban and then transported to Pretoria by road on a flatbed. The main cold box was 48m long, making it a challenge to transport as an abnormal load and to lift into position on site. For road transport, cargo permits were required for each district as well as a police escort all the way from Durban to Pretoria.

“The number of role players involved also rendered this project highly complex,” comments Kimber. “However, execution was streamlined and activities fell into place as scheduled.”

A proudly South African company, Afrox is the total solutions technology partner – dedicated to providing customers with superior products of the highest standards, quality and purity.