The world’s largest oxygen production plant has recently been inaugurated at chemicals and energy group Sasol‘s Secunda plant, Mpumalanga, South Africa by Environmental Affair minister Edna Molewa. The €200-million air separation unit (ASU) production plant belongs to French gas company Air Liquide.

According to joint Sasol CEO Bongani Nqwababa, the ASU is the world’s largest  oxygen production unit, with a capacity of 5 000 t/d and brings the total number of ASUs in Sasol’s fleet to 17. The other 16 ASU plants built for Sasol had a capacity of 4 000 t/d of oxygen only. As such, this new production plant is considered the most energy-efficient oxygen train on Sasol’s site. Another difference between this plant and the earlier 16 ASU’s is that whereas the first 16 ASU’s are operated in-house, this new production plant will be owned and operated by Air Liquid.

As a result of this new plant, there will be a further increase in oxygen for Sasol’s fuels and chemicals production processes. In addition to oxygen, the ASU also produces other gases such as xenon and krypton, which are used in medical scanners and high-speed photography equipment. As a result, many other industries will benefit from this new power plant.

According to Air Liquide CEO Benoît Potier, this new production plant allows the company to create a new source of liquid gases to supply the growing industrial gas market in South Africa. “Our commitment is not only to Sasol, but also the South Africa economy and society,” says Potier. ”Our first Air Liquide branch was inaugurated in South Africa more than 60 years ago and we have since demonstrated commitment in developing industrial infrastructures.” Potier adds that his company has added to job creation, currently employing 800 people in South Africa in the industrial and health sectors. French embassy representative Emmanual Suquet contributes that the investment by Air Liquide was testament to the business confidence that French companies have in South Africa. Minister Molewa agrees, stating that “We need more such investments to address the 26% unemployment rate in South Africa.”

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