R300m gas plant at IDZ

CIVIL works at the R300-million Afrox Air Separation Unit (ASU) in Coega will begin today. At yesterday's official sod-turning ceremony for the ASU, Afrox managing director Brett Kimber said it would be the first ASU built in the Eastern Cape by the company.

The building of parts for the plant had already started in Germany and would be shipped in August to the Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) where the components of the ASU will be assembled with cranes.

Kimber said once the plant's parts arrived from Germany, construction would be finished by the end of the year.

The ASU was expected to be commissioned by January.

"This is a major investment for PE and other investments will follow. Good things are happening in the city and the province, and Afrox is proud to contribute to the Eastern Cape's growth. We believe this is where our next customer growth will be as Coega comes onto the map," Kimber said.

Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber chief executive Kevin Hustler welcomed Afrox's investment in the IDZ and the Eastern Cape.

"The project plans for 20 years of growth in the region and shows a visionary and forward-thinking approach by the company. Gas is a utility that is needed in all sectors of the economy," Hustler said.

Gases supplied by Afrox are already used by many organisations and industries in the Eastern Cape – from oxygen for babies in hospital incubators to the drying of paint at vehicle manufacturers.

Some customers of Afrox who are based in the IDZ and attended the sod turning yesterday were representatives from FAW and Agni Steels SA. Kimber said once operational in the IDZ, the 150 tons a day produced would meet the demands of local customers and secure the supply of gas to the Eastern Cape.

"With fuel costs going up the ASU will offer a reliable supply of gas, strengthening our customer support," Kimber said.

In simple terms, the new Coega ASU would suck in air from outside and separate it into oxygen, nitrogen and argon in a cool box at -220°C, he said.

The state-of-the-art energy efficient plant would be operated remotely on a 24-hour a day basis from the United Kingdom and would employ eight permanent staff members to be recruited in the Bay and trained in Johannesburg.

Automotive component manufacturer Bentler's plant manager Desmond de Vos said the Afrox ASU would mean "we won't have to worry about potential line stoppages and it will be a just-down-the-road type of application."