Air Products’ new air separation plant in the Coega Industrial Development Zone has moved another step closer to its opening target with the arrival this week of a key piece of equipment that will form the heart of the R300m ($27.21m) plant.

At 32 metres high – roughly the height of a nine-storey building – the cylindrical steel cold box will add a distinctive landmark to the Coega landscape once it is lifted into position with multiple heavy-duty cranes.

Air Products remains firmly on schedule for completion of the plant in the third quarter, followed by commissioning and the flowing of gas in the fourth quarter of 2014, said Air Products General Manager On-sites Robert Richardson.

He said the cold box was the “heart of the plant” and was probably the most distinctive feature of every cryogenic air separation plant.

The cold box’s arrival on site on Tuesday, transported by a self-propelled modular transporter from the Port of Ngqura, where it arrived on Sunday, 16 February, signalled the successful completion of a complex chain of behind-the-scenes processes in engineering, design, procurement, manufacturing and logistics.

“Together with the arrival of other high-tech components from America and Europe over the past few weeks, this means the construction of the plant now moves from the major civil and building works stage into the mechanical phase of the installation,” said Richardson.

The cold box houses and insulates the cryogenic equipment for the refrigeration and distillation of atmospheric air into liquid oxygen and nitrogen.

Several heavy-duty cranes will lift and fit the cold box into its final position on a massive concrete foundation, Richardson said.

He said the concrete foundation, together with lay down areas and support trestles where the cold box will rest horizontally for inspection and preparation prior to lifting, were constructed well in advance to allow time for the concrete to cure.

After inspection for possible shipping damage and quality control, the cold box will be fitted with valves and safety equipment, and ladders and platforms will be welded into place along with the application of corporate branding.

Air Products’ engineering team has conducted a rigging study and developed a lifting plan to determine the placement of the lay down areas, the cold box’s position in the lay down areas, as well as the number and size of the cranes, and health and safety issues.

“The project has been injury-free thus far and it is important to us that we keep it that way. Air Products has supervised and conducted many of these lifts before, and this lift will once again be supervised by our experienced team with a key aim of sending everyone home safely, every day,” Richardson said.