A feat of engineering excellence, the Eastern Cape’s first operational air separation unit (ASU) was unveiled by Air Products South Africa in the Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) during November 2014. The Coega Development Corporation’s (CDC) Business Development Executive Manager, Christopher Mashigo, dubbed the R300-million facility, with its towering 32 metre cold box housing the cryogenic distillation columns, an “industrial sculpture”.
The arrival of the 56 tonne cold box on site in February (subs: 2014), delivered by sea from Europe to the Port of Ngqura, was the culmination of a 36-month project and a complex chain of engineering, design, procurement, manufacturing and logistics processes. Lifting the cold box to its vertical position as a new landmark on the Coega skyline took just 20 minutes, but it was the conclusion of six months of planning, based on a detailed lifting plan, rigging study and safety considerations.
Similarly, the 88 tonne nitrogen storage vessel took eight months to manufacture and two weeks to reach the site by road from Johannesburg. The vessel is the second largest vessel ever manufactured by Rand Air & Gas.
The nitrogen tank, like the cold box, is a double-skinned vacuum insulated pressure vessel, with a stainless steel inner vessel to withstand the low temperatures, and a carbon steel outer vessel to form a vacuum jacket. It is designed with extremely high levels of vacuum and perlite insulation to keep the nitrogen at a constant -188° Celsius.
The state-of-the art ASU has brought new levels of technological innovation to air separation. The use of computer-aided engineering tools such as computational fluid dynamics and process simulation software enabled optimal equipment design and selection, for the highest levels of operational and energy efficiency.
The 110 tonnes per day of liquid oxygen and nitrogen produced by the plant have a wide range of uses and will supply the Eastern Cape’s automotive manufacturing sector, as well as the region’s pharmaceutical, food and beverage, agro-processing and renewable energy industries.
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