Big upgrade for Newcastle CO2 gas plant

05 June 2019 | Web Article Number: ME201914744

Food & Beverage
Heating, Cooling & Ventilation
Transport, Distribution & Warehousing
Big upgrade for Newcastle CO2 gas plant

AIR Products has responded to growing market demand for carbon dioxide (CO2) by investing R100 million in a CO2 expansion and refurbishment project at its Newcastle facility and an upgrade at the National Petroleum Refiners of South Africa (Natref) facility in Sasolburg.

The company has identified the growing food and beverage industry, the country’s largest consumer of CO2, as a prime target market. Its gaseous CO2 facility in Newcastle has the capacity to produce and recover large quantities of carbon dioxide from blast furnace off-gas but its capacity to liquefy gas was extremely limited.

General Manager Charles Dos Santos said that after Air Products’ bulk business was awarded a large tender to supply one of South Africa’s largest beverage manufacturers there was a need to invest in a new liquefier to complement the existing liquefaction plant and utilise the excess gaseous CO2 production capacity available at the Newcastle facility.

“The refurbishment part of the project was extremely challenging as the work had to be done on a facility that was operational,” he said. “As the existing plant was completed in 1998, and its full capacity had not been used since 2013, the condition of the equipment and scope of work could not be assessed until the equipment could be dismantled and inspected internally.”

The project also included improvements to water utilisation and energy efficiency. “Even though there was an extremely tight deadline, the project was completed on time and exceeded its design performance.” CO2 is produced for Air Products from two different sources – the Newcastle facility and the Natref refinery in Sasolburg. CO2 is produced at these sources according to the International Society of Beverage Technologists (ISBT) specifications as a minimum quality specification and is used for food and beverage applications.

The CO2 used for the food and beverage customer applications is required to be tested and supplied with a certificate of analysis (COA). The COA is issued to the customer upon delivery of the product.

Operational Risk Manager Abdul Shaik said that prior to the upgrade project, the CO2 produced at the Natref Facility had to be transported by tanker to the Air Products Vanderbijlpark facility where it was tested and a COA was issued by the Vanderbijlpark Quality Control (QC) Laboratory.

“This caused inefficiencies in our road tanker fleet and unnecessary time delays, ultimately impacting on the overall service delivery to the customer. With the upgrade, a laboratory and analyser were installed at the Natref facility enabling on-site testing at the facility. The laboratories located at both the Natref and Newcastle facilities ensure that the quality is verified at source and as a result this leads to an improvement in customer service,” Shaik said. General Manager – Supply Chain Seelan Gounden said supplying larger volumes of CO2 was perceived as challenging to most companies. “Air Products has been extremely cautious and we did all the necessary forecasts and projections to ensure that our decision is responsible and will benefit the organisation in the long term.

“Air Products’ entire value chain has been impacted by this upgrade and we are pleased with the increased diversity of production sites and storage capacity. We are also ensuring that we optimise our modern fleet by doing less trips and reducing our carbon footprint. We are looking forward to providing a secure supply of CO2 to our existing customers as well as to grow the CO2 market,” Gounden said.

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