South Africa-based industrial gases company Air Products revealed that it recently came to the assistance of its biggest argon customer, Columbus Stainless (Columbus), when the steel manufacturer encountered a major interruption in oxygen supply via its pipeline.

Having received an urgent request on Friday 23rd June by Columbus to assist with a possible solution, Air Products visited the site after-hours to discuss possible routes, viable options, and equipment requirements. 

With the options discussed and review by Air Products on the Saturday morning, the technical team decided to modify and utilise the existing argon storage and vaporisation system to provide oxygen to the plant. 

Considered the ‘safest and simplest’ solution, the modification required a temporary pipeline to be manufactured. This allowed the argon installation to connect to the plant oxygen supply pipeline. 

After the project had been green lit, team members from a range of departments were assembled to undertake an intensive four-day process to modify the installation controls, convert the crude argon tank installation to oxygen service and install the temporary pipeline. 

Bulk Engineering Columbus Project Team

Bulk Engineering Columbus Project Team

Source: Air Products

This pipeline involved the connection of approximately 24 metres of three-inch stainless-steel pipe as a temporary gas supply solution. 

Stating that the project required swift action, Nana Phuti, Senior Project Engineer, Air Products, added that the familiarity of the company with the product characteristics was also needed. 

“Furthermore, the project team had to ensure that key role players are familiar with their responsibilities according to the project plan and that they execute their tasks within the project timeframe. 

“It is equally important to update the customer and manage their expectations in terms of the completion of the project,” she said. 

Having worked on a shift basis around the clock to complete the pipeline, Columbus was able to resume its processes and reduce downtime costs. 

“Fortunately, with the commitment from Air Products, we were able to resolve the problem within a few days,” commented Alec Russell, Engineering Manager, Columbus Stainless.