After three years in the pipeline, Air Products South Africa has today launched its new, state-of-the-art air separation unit (ASU) at the company’s Vanderbijlpark facility.
The new plant – known as ‘G-Plant’– represents the largest single investment (R800m; $74m approx.) made by a local industrial gas company in the past decade.
It also cements the company’s reputation for ensuring long-term security of supply for its customers.
The commissioning of G-Plant is the result of a successful and mutually beneficial relationship that Air Products South Africa has enjoyed with Sasol, and is an expansion of its existing long-term supply contract to the company.
The new plant will supply Sasol’s Expansion Programme in Sasolburg with pipeline gaseous oxygen and nitrogen in response to increased feedstock requirements.
“We are proud of the significant vote of confidence that Sasol has given Air Products South Africa in awarding us this business. The decision emanates from a strong supply partnership which we have built up over the years with Sasol. This is based not only on our track record for service delivery and reliable supply, but also for operational excellence,” said Mike Hellyar, Managing Director of Air Products South Africa.
Long-term investment pipeline
The G-Plant, with a production capacity of over 2,500 tonnes per day (tpd) of gaseous and liquid product, is the sixth plant to be commissioned at the Vanderbijlpark site and the fifteenth to be commissioned countrywide by Air Products South Africa.
While Sasol in Sasolburg will remain the anchor customer of the G-Plant in terms of a long-term ‘over-the-fence’ supply contract, the ASU will have capacity to service other markets – including Air Products’ other pipeline networks, bulk and packaged gas customers.
“While the G-Plant was commissioned in support of the Sasol One Site Expansion Programme in Sasolburg, we will be leveraging off it to boost our overall supply capacity for the merchant market, as well as our production capability for pure argon, which will consolidate our market leadership in this area,” explained Rob Richardson, General Manager – On-Sites at Air Products South Africa.
A significant addition to what is already the largest dedicated industrial gases manufacturing facility in South Africa, the new unit represents an investment of R800m ($74m) and is part of an overall long-term capital investment pipeline of just under R2bn that the company has put in place.
Hellyar added, “Our long-term capital investment strategy is the basis upon which we can build and develop our supply chain capacity, and therefore ensure the future sustainability of the company, and the industry as a whole.”
“It also supports our core competency, which is ensuring optimal customer service levels and security of supply. This is something our customers have come to expect from us.”
As the largest supplier in the pipeline industrial gas market in the country, Air Products South Africa has commissioned eight ASUs in the past 10 years, with two currently under construction, including its new plant in the Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) – the first of its kind in the region.
At the same time, the company has also made significant strides in air separation technology over the past 10-15 years, which has resulted in a significantly more energy-efficient process. For Sasol, the new G-Plant offers many advantages, including the benefits of enhanced diversity of supply, and the long-term cost benefits of highly efficient, state-of-the-art air separation technology.
The G-Plant is described by Air Products as ‘truly a pivotal project’. The sheer size of the project is cited as setting it apart from any other in the country, with the main cold box module (one of three) weighing in at 285 tonnes and the largest to have transported over land in the country.
Hellyar proclaimed the G-Plant as representing, “a seminal step-change in technological advancement and sustainability in the gas industry.”