Argon, one of the ‘noble’, inert gases, has a number of applications in industrial processes. Accessibility and ready supply, however, are dependent on operational and technical expertise, storage capacity and an ability to respond readily to the needs of a dynamic and changing market.
Air Products South Africa prides itself on being the largest producer of gaseous argon in the country, and having sufficient storage capacity to ensure a comfortable supply in the short and medium term.
This is according to Josua le Roux, General Manager – Central Services at Air Products South Africa. “Demand for argon is dynamic and volatile. To a large extent, it is also dependent on infrastructural development. Air Products has developed specific expertise when it comes to ensuring security of supply for our customers, based on both production and storage capabilities,” he says.
Ranging from high-end customers, requiring a number of tonnes on a daily basis, to smaller consumers who may only need a couple of kilograms a month, Air Products has several modes of supply that are able to cater for a wide variety of industries.
Air Products delivers argon in gaseous or liquid form through a variety of supply modes, including cylinder, CryoEase, or bulk tanker, depending on customer requirements. A number of the company’s country-wide facilities have the capacity to produce argon, and storage sites are strategically placed across the country.
As an inert, shielding gas, argon is used to improve quality, optimise performance and reduce costs in a variety of processes such as cutting and welding in the fabrication, automotive, and machine building industries.
“Future demand for argon will be driven largely by infrastructural growth and development. This includes the construction of power plants, solar devices, wind farms, as well as basic infrastructure, such as roads, rail and ports,” notes le Roux.
“Our argon storage columns ensure consistent supply, but without expert supply chain management, our customers would not have peace of mind when it comes to their argon requirements. Air Products’ real value proposition rests in our flair for operational on-site management, as well as expertise in supply chain management.
“In addition, by alerting us when levels run low, our on-site telemetry system effectively eliminates the risk of down-time for our customers,” says le Roux.
The company’s experience and team expertise when it comes to plant operation helps to ensure that its facilities are operational 365 days a year. This results in constant production, and therefore supply. Moreover, Air Products’ strong tradition of welding industry expertise completes a holistic service offering to customers.
“Our aim is uninterrupted up-time for our customers when it comes to gas supply, as well as the assurance of using a premium quality product. Purity is pivotal when it comes to argon, which customers may be assured of, thanks to Air Products’ decades of experience in argon production and quality assurance through our ISO9001:2000 certification.
In addition, our customers can benefit from our welding expertise when it comes to choosing the right gas,” says le Roux, noting that Air Products are industry leaders in specialty welding gas mixtures. An example of this is Magmix 3, a user-friendly pre-mix of carbon dioxide, oxygen and argon.
“Air Products’ specialist knowledge when it comes to argon and its applications, our operational and distribution expertise - and the largest volume producer in the country - ensures a supply of argon that will reliably supply South African industry requirements currently and in the future,” le Roux concludes.