Industrial gas company Air Products is confident regarding the prospects for its new air separation unit (ASU) in the Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) as the facility moves into the commissioning stage ahead of its official opening in the fourth quarter of 2014.
The R300m plant – the 16th built by Air Products in Southern Africa – is the first primary gas production facility in the Eastern Cape. The facility forms part of the company’s R2bn strategic investment pipeline, focused on establishing a solid countrywide gas production and supply network.
While acknowledging that market conditions were challenging across the board, Air Products General Manager for Central Services, Josua le Roux said that the company’s expansion strategy was based on a long-term view of market demand and ensuring that the business was well-positioned to grow alongside its customers.
“Our market analysis showed strong demand for industrial gases across a range of industries in the Eastern Cape. We were encouraged – and still are – by the positive industrial and economic growth prospects of the province, and particularly the pipeline of mega-projects coming into the Coega IDZ,” Le Roux said.
Air Products had secured new business from its IDZ neighbours FAW and APM Terminals on the back of its investment, which has boosted the security of supply of industrial gas to the Eastern Cape,” Le Roux said.
“We committed that gas would flow from the new air separation unit before the end of 2014, and the project is now 95% complete. We are firmly on schedule to launch the plant during the fourth quarter,” he said.
Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber CEO Kevin Hustler acknowledged Air Products’ continued progress towards meeting its commitment to Eastern Cape industry, and said their investment reflected growing confidence in the region.
“We are very positive about the growth prospects for the Eastern Cape over the long term, with the level of investment we are now seeing flow into the region - particularly by the upgrading of ports and rail infrastructure by state-owned enterprises. Public sector investment of this order has been proven to stimulate private sector confidence and investment, and Air Products’ new facility bears testament to this,” he said.
Construction and installation of the ASU is complete, and Air Products’ engineering team has commenced with starting up the utilities, including the electrical and process water cooling systems. Contractors are busy putting the finishing touches to supporting facilities and administration buildings. Utilising state-of-the art energy-efficient gas production technology, the facility will produce 110 tons of liquid nitrogen and oxygen per day, and was designed with the capacity to scale-up production in line with market demand.