Afrox has invested R4 million to increase its storage and supply capacity of food grade carbon dioxide and liquid nitrogen to Wadeville based Coca-Cola Canners of Southern Africa.

This investment supports the expansion of this plant, the largest beverage canning facility on the continent, producing a range of carbonated and non-carbonated beverages.

To create the desired “bubbles” in soft drinks, carbonic acid (H2CO3) must be created through the carbonation process. No other method of carbonating soft drinks exists. The traditional carbonation process requires vapourised carbon dioxide to be mixed under pressure with temperature controlled water in a carbonator. The syrup, sweetener and other ingredients are then added.

“We have a longstanding supply agreement with Coca-Cola Canners and we are currently installing additional carbon dioxide and nitrogen tanks at the site,” Afrox’s Kevin Townsend says. “Carbon dioxide is used in carbonated soft drink canning operations at the plant, while nitrogen is used in the production of non-carbonated products to provide packaging rigidity and create an aseptic head space in the finished product.”

Beverage manufacturers generally rely on PET (polyethylene terephthalate) to produce their drinks bottles. Over the past 20 years, plastic bottles have become thinner in line with environmental and cost pressures and this has reduced the weight of PET polymers in the bottles, while steel cans have recently been replaced by softer and lighter walled aluminium cans. Carbonated drinks supply their own internal gas pressure in the product and in the head space to give strength and the necessary support to a thin walled can or PET bottle.

“Rigidity of non-carbonated products is addressed at the plant by dispensing metered quantities of Afrox food grade liquid nitrogen into still beverage cans and bottles just prior to sealing,” Townsend says. “After the container is sealed, the liquid nitrogen gasifies, expanding its volume and providing accurate and appropriate liquid head pressure, without making the drink fizzy.” 

An Afrox telemetry monitoring system constantly measures the volumes in the storage vessels at Coca-Cola Canners of Southern Africa and prompts timeous gas deliveries as required.

Afrox leads the South African market in the supply of carbon dioxide, drawing the gas from a network of plants throughout the country and distributing it to customers throughout the country and sub-Saharan Southern Africa via a comprehensively sized fleet of tankers.