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Jan 31, 2003

Firm supplies 56 heat exchangers to project

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© Reuse this Fifty-six heat exchangers were supplied by a Gauteng-based designer and manufacturer to South Africa’s first detergent alcohols plant commissioned this year in Secunda, Mpumulanga. GEA Aircooled Systems, of Roodekop, Germiston, supplied the exchangers to the Uhde-Kvaerner joint venture, which engineered, managed and constructed the detergent alcohols plant for the Olefins and Surfactants Division of Sasol.

GEA received the initial order for 46 shell-and-tube heat exchangers in November 2000. Later a further order was received for equipment for the vacuum package, comprising four shell-and-tube heat exchangers, four vessels and two coalescers, increasing the total number of items to 56.

The value of GEA’s contract at the detergent alcohols plant was about R30-million.

The company began actual work on the project in November 2000, and work was completed in the latter part of 2001.

Senior products manager Willem Botha and manager: engineering and contracts Albert Zapke tell Engineering News that they have acted as suppliers to Sasol on a number of the South African cor- poration’s projects.

The equipment supplied by GEA facilitates heat transfer between pro-cess streams, some acting as coolers using water as the cooling medium.

Zapke describes the process by telling Engineering News that shell-and-tube heat exchangers consist of tubes that are assembled into a bundle, which fits into a shell.

This shell typically contains a cold fluid, which can either be a chemical process fluid or cooling water, while a hot process fluid flows on the tubeside.

The temperature differential between the shellside and tubeside fluids results in heat being transferred from the hot fluid through the tube wall to the cold fluid.

Shell-and-tube heat exchangers are not limited to cooling applications, but can also be employed for heating through the use of hot steam on the shellside.

The type of material to be used for fabrication of heat exchangers is determined by the chemical composition of the process streams being catered for, says Botha.

At Sasol’s detergent alcohols plant GEA supplied equipment in carbon steel, stainless steel, duplex stainless steel and related materials.

Zapke tells Engineering News that GEA is a heat transfer specialist, while still acting as a fabricator, as well as a turnkey project manager.

The company can design from scratch, catering for both the thermal and mechanical engineering of heat exchangers.

This is all done in-house, GEA featuring both thermal and mechanical designers as part of its staff complement.

In periods of peak loads, when in-house capacity is exceeded, the company interacts with outside designers should project requirements make it necessary.

GEA Aircooled Systems was established in 1975 by the German-based GEA engineering organisation and has had a good relationship with Sasol, almost since its inception, having done much work for the company at the old Sasol plant in Sasolburg, Free State.

Recently GEA has been involved at Sasol’s n-butanol plant, the Temane gas project in Mozambique, and Sasol’s acrylic plant, among others.

GEA also supplies to refineries across South Africa, such as Engen, Sapref, PetroSA and Caltex, and is also involved in the power industry.

Although most of GEA’s work to do with refineries is local, much of its power generation work is for foreign-based clients.

Outside of South Africa the company supplies mainly heat exchanger technology to the US, Mexico, Australia, Europe and the Middle East.

It is difficult to say how much of the company’s turnover is local and how much foreign, as it differs from year-to-year, Zapke reports.

One year 30 % of work will be local, and 70 % foreign, and the following year it may be reversed.

Zapke says there is no target the company would like to achieve of foreign versus local business, but would just be content to take business from wherever it comes.

Zapke and Botha tell Engineering News that South Africa enjoys a competitive manufacturing advantage over other countries, due to both the weak rand and South African technical expertise and manpower.
Edited by: Marius Roodt
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