South African Afrox is to invest approximately R350m into several major new gas production facilities around South Africa this year.

Craig Falconer, Afrox's general manager process gas solutions, says this expenditure results from increased demand from the company's existing customer base as well as by new business wins.

Afrox recently installed and commissioned a nitrogen generation and hydrogen electrolysis plant at specialised automotive parts manufacturer, Bleistahl, in Atlantis, Western Cape, which is increasing its production by 500 per cent.

Afrox is re-engineering its Wadeville, Gauteng, facility that serves the Scaw Metals Group to increase gaseous oxygen delivery to Scaw Metals by more than 60 per cent. Due for completion in July 2006, this project will also enhance Afrox's reliability as a source of liquid argon for the merchant market.

In KwaZulu-Natal, the company will relocate an air separation unit (ASU) to serve paper-and-packing operation, Mondi Kraft, in Richards Bay. The project is scheduled for completion by October 2006.

In Pietermaritzburg, Afrox will expand its liquefaction capacity by investing in a new nitrogen liquefaction unit for its ASU. The new liquefier should be on stream by early 2007.

In Lydenburg, Afrox will relocate an ASU from a BOC operation in the United States to meet increased demand for gaseous oxygen for the rotary fired kilns at Xstrata. The new ASU is commissioned in the first quarter of 2007.

Afrox is to install a new ASU and liquefier in Cape Town to guarantee uninterrupted supply of all its gas products in the Cape province for the coming decade. After commissioning in 2007, the plant will have spare capacity for the Western Cape, and Afrox will ship product to the Eastern Cape to supplement supplies currently being drawn from the Mossgas facility.