Bay gas supply step closer

Shaun Gillham

INDUSTRY in the Eastern Cape is a step closer to receiving a localised industrial gas supply after gas giant Air Products broke ground for their R300-million air separation plant at Coega yesterday.

Beyond Air Products’ massive investment in Nelson Mandela Bay and the province, the localised supply of industrial gases will not only be to the advantage of existing local gas users through benefits such as lowered costs and security of supply. It is also expected to bring increased economic development opportunities to the region.

The sod-turning ceremony for the plant marked the first step towards construction of the hi-tech facility, which is expected to be operational by the third quarter of next year. The event attracted a number of high-profile dignitaries, including Nelson Mandela Bay business leaders and mayor Ben Fihla.

The plant – the first air separation unit of its kind in the province – is to be constructed in Zone 3 of the Coega industrial development zone (IDZ) and will supply customers ranging from automotive manufacturers to food processors in the Nelson Mandela Bay area and further afield in the province.

Speaking at yesterday’s event, Air Products managing director Mike Hellyar said the establishment of the new plant came after a very careful market analysis and feasibility study showed there was a high level of customer demand in the region.

“So we wasted no time and the plant is now a reality. This ground- breaking marks the start of a new industrial era for industrial gas users in the Eastern Cape,” he said.

Coega Development Corporation executive manager: business development Christopher Mashigo hailed the introduction of the plant not only for Nelson Mandela Bay, but particularly for the IDZ.

“To attract investors into an area, and specifically an area such as our IDZ, you must have as a base what we call the big three, which is electricity, water and natural gas, and you need these just to make the cut [to be even considered as a location].

“With the presence of Air Products here, we can add a new utility offering, which is specialist gases. This means we can now add a new value proposition to this region and the IDZ,” said Mashigo.

He said the Air Products investment would stimulate the IDZ, be a strong catalyst for its growth and would help attract further investment.

Industrial gas supplier Afrox announced last year that it also intends to construct an air separation plant.

The Afrox unit, which is to produce nitrogen, argon and oxygen, is expected to cost R250-million and is also earmarked for the Coega IDZ.

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