L – R: Anton Grobbelaar (Air Products), Rob Richardson (Air Products), Executive Mayor Councillor Baloyi (Midvaal Local Municipality) and Sizwe Nkonde (Air Products)
Continuously improving facilities, safety, processes and service delivery are key contributors to Air Products South Africa’s success over the years. This plays a vital role in establishing the company as one of the leading players in the manufacturing of industrial gas. A strategic decision was taken to invest in excess of R90 million and merge two of the existing dissolved acetylene plants to a centrally located world-class facility in Midvaal.
Air Products’ dissolved acetylene plants at the Kempton Park and Pinetown facilities were decommissioned and moved to the facility in Midvaal. The main reason for the centralisation of the manufacturing of acetylene was to create a single production facility with improved technology and processes, and ultimately establishing a secure supply and improved customer service with increased capacity.
The new facility is designed according to the latest and highest standards of global dissolved acetylene facility trends. The facility was developed by an experienced Air Products team who has been involved with the design, management and operations of other local facilities for a number of years. The key focus elements of the new facility, was to ensure that the facility is equipped with new technology in order to produce gas safely, of the highest quality, within improved timelines and in a manner that is not harmful to the environment.
Dissolved acetylene, which is largely used for cutting, is a colourless, flammable gas with a distinctive odour that is manufactured by a chemical reaction between calcium carbide and water. Due to the nature of Air Products’ business, safety forms a crucial part of the day-to-day operations of the facility. This is in line with the company’s global ethos that nothing is more important than safety.
According to Air Products MD, Rob Richardson, the launch of the dissolved acetylene facility is the result of the incorporation of the crucial elements that portray what Air Products stands for – providing an outstanding service to customers through the use of improved technology, efficient production and compliance to safety regulations.
Richardson further comments on the financial investment: “At Air Products we firmly believe in investing in new technology and processes in order to remain competitive. We had an investment pipeline over the last few years to which we allocated R2 billion, the two most recent projects being the launch of the Vanderbijlpark Facility’s ‘G-Plant’ and the air separation unit (ASU) which was launched in the Eastern Cape in 2014. The dissolved acetylene facility is an additional investment that we have made. This investment is testimony to the fact that we continuously strive to ensure that our service and product delivery to customers are placed at the forefront when we plan financial investments of this nature”.
Besides reaching the operational objectives of improved service, it is also important for Air Products to be regarded as a good corporate citizen. To this end, various elements were incorporated into the design to create a sustainable facility. An example is the facility’s ability to harvest and conserve water.
The company has also entered into an Enterprise Development initiative with a company who will be responsible for a solar energy project at the facility in the near future.
Air Products’ continuous aim is to ensure that they play an active role in the communities in which they operate and improve the lives of people in these areas. As such, the corporate social investment (CSI) programme invested in a 224m2 aquaponics system at the Randvaal Primary School where learners are taught how to grow vegetables in a sustainable way. The system also provides vegetables that are used for the school’s feeding scheme.
Richardson concludes: “We are fully aware that this facility was largely possible due to the support of Air Products’ loyal, longstanding customers without whom this investment would not have become a reality. In the current global economy, now more so than ever, we continue to place our focus on providing service that delivers the difference”.