PORT Elizabeth's slice of a massive R1.5-billion investment by leading gas supplier Afrox will boost job creation in the area when the company's planned state-of-the-art air separation unit is operational within the next two years.
Afrox officially announced at its Deal Party plant yesterday that the company would spend R250-million to establish this unit to produce nitrogen argon and oxygen locally. The plans were confirmed late last year.
The gas producer plans to invest more than R1.5-billion in KwaZulu-Natal, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth over the next five years. Afrox managing director Brett Kimber said 20 to 30 permanent jobs would be created when the unit was up and running in January 2015.
"There will also be indirect jobs created throughout the construction phase."
The Coega Industrial Development Zone has been earmarked as the construction site and the environmental impact assessment is currently under way. Kimber said there was definitely a need for such an investment as gas was currently trucked in from the Western Cape to supply Nelson Mandela Bay and surrounding regions.
This, he said, was not only expensive with escalating petrol prices, but also risky with the possibility of vehicle accidents. Afrox covers about 24 million kilometres every year to deliver products around the country.
"The new Eastern Cape unit has taken the lead from customer growth plans and is the culmination of a long-term plan to underpin security of future supply in the region."
One of these customers is Dynamic Commodities.
"At certain times of the year, our demand grows to 20 tons per day, when we use cryogenic freezing gases which are very important for the cell structure preservation of our fruit," operations director Ray Holmes said.
"An air separation unit in the Eastern Cape will take away the logistical nightmare of making sure that we have a continuous gas supply."