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Afrox invests in a new speciality gases plant

AFROX has recently completed a new made-to-order speciality gases plant in response to rising market demand for complex gas mixtures.

The complex gases produced at the new gravimetric filling plant will be Afrox’s main source of all made-to-order gas mixtures, supplying customers throughout South Africa and its neighbouring countries.

Designed for improved accuracy and efficiency, the new automated facility in Germiston allows for up to 16 fixed line input components, which can be increased by introducing premixed components on separate filling rigs for oxidant and flammable/toxic mixtures. The filling and component selection procedures are pre-programmed and digitally controlled in a process that also operates actuated control valves integrated with a scale.

Tony Flude, Project Manager at Afrox, says the need for an improved, automated facility arose as customer needs evolved and the demand for complex gas mixtures increased, which had previously been processed at Afrox’s Special Gases manual gravimetric filling plant. The original plant’s ability to produce complex mixtures within acceptable lead times and within acceptable tolerances had become a challenge and some gas mixtures had to be imported to meet customer requirements. Safety was also a consideration and the total separation of oxidant and flammable mixtures is an additional benefit of the new facility.

“The new facility is capable of producing many of the multipart mixtures that were previously imported,” says Flude, explaining that local complex gas production not only improves lead times but is also safer, due to the risks involved in importing hazardous and volatile gases.

“The semi-automated fill valves also reduce material wastage, while a booster pump that increases the pressure of low pressure gases significantly reduces filling time,” continues Flude.

“After thorough analysis, our engineering team concluded that Afrox could design and construct a filling plant utilising a process description based on the facility at BOC Australia. While our process was 100 percent locally designed, being part of the Linde Group gave us access to the latest technology and international experience,” says Flude.

He comments that the brownfields project was logistically challenging as the new facility had to be built without affecting the operation of the existing plant, and stringent safety measures were vital owing to the proximity of toxic and flammable gases.

The nationwide COVID-19 lockdown further complicated the project, halting the installation of new equipment for several months. Despite these delays and challenges, Flude says the new plant is now fully operational, with only a few minor works to complete.

Afrox’s extensive range of special gases is widely used in the automotive and petrochemicals industry, and plays an important role in mining and metallurgy. Afrox also has longstanding partnerships within the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries supplying precise, bespoke gas mixtures. The company is at the forefront of environmental management, providing products, services and expertise to help customers tackle environmental challenges.

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