Local vessels manufacturer GasCon supplied six 250 m3 liquid oxygen storage tanks to US space transport services company Space Exploration Technologies’ (SpaceX’s) launch site in California, US, in May 2013.
SpaceX has developed the Falcon 9 two-stage rocket to transport satellites and the Dragon space-transport craft into orbit.
The first stage of the rocket’s launch incorporates nine Merlin engines and aluminum-lithium alloy tanks containing liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene propellant.
“The tanks will store liquid oxygen, which is a critical component in launching the Falcon 9 rocket,” states GasCon cryogenics business unit manager Paul Coetzer.
Additionally, he points out that the company supplied two liquid nitrogen vertical storage tanks, with a storage capacity of 250 000 ∙, to industrial gas supplier Afrox for use at its air separation plants in Cape Town, in the Western Cape, and Pietermaritzburg, in KwaZulu-Natal, in May.
“We also supplied several liquefied natural gas (LNG) ISO containers to power utility company HawaiiGas to supply LNG from the US mainland to Hawaii,” he notes.
In December, GasCon also supplied three 46 000 ℓ LNG ISO containers to Australian power utility company Energy Developments for the company’s liquefaction plants in Western Australia.
Meanwhile, he tells Engineering News that GasCon has been continuously diversifying its product offering since 2007, which includes the manufacture of cryogenic vessels.
“In February, we introduced 250 m3 vacuum-insulated vertical storage tanks and vacuum- insulated tank containers with increased capacity were also added to our offering in October last year,” says Coetzer, who adds that the vacuum-insulated tanks are used to store and transport cryogenic liquids, which reach boiling point at –150 °C, or lower.
He points out that GasCon is delivering one cryogenic tank a week.
Coetzer explains that, owing to the global rise in demand for tanks in which to store and distribute LNG, the company recorded steady growth in sales this year.
Coetzer says the company’s cryogenic tanks are also double-walled, vacuum-insulated and designed to significantly reduce heat transfer into a cryogenic payload.
“The lower the rate of heat transfer, the longer the cryogenic liquids can be stored in the tanks before reaching boiling point.”
Coetzer states that the main advantage of GasCon’s vertical storage tanks is that they require significantly less space for installation, compared with horizontal tanks of the same capacity.
Moreover, he asserts that GasCon’s new-generation vacuum- insulated container tanks provide 10% higher payloads than the industry-standard capacities, while maintaining low tare weights, which leads to increased profitability in customer operations.
All the company’s products are locally manufactured at GasCon’s plant in Cape Town, in the Western Cape, and Coetzer adds that the vacuum-insulated container tanks contribute positively to the environment by facilitating the distribution and use of natural gas as a clean-burning fuel.
“Our storage tanks also ensure that air gas companies have strategic storage volumes of their product, reducing their yearly power consumption when planned shutdowns are undertaken,” he notes.
Coetzer says the company’s design and manufacture of products have improved significantly over the last five years through the use of three-dimensional computer- assisted design (Cad) and finite element and thermal analysis software.
“The effects of design changes can be easily investigated and the best combination of all possible changes to improve the design can then be generated automatically through an optimisation study.”
He notes that all new designs are prototype-tested to code requirements and to evaluate performance levels.
Coetzer says, although local demand for tanks for industrial air gases has remained steady, global liquid carbon dioxide and LNG distribution equipment demand is “booming” and strong future growth is expected.
“Whether small-scale distribution of LNG will form part of South Africa’s future energy mix remains to be seen. Nonetheless, GasCon is well placed to support the local market with equipment that has been successfully used in several countries, such as Norway and the US, particularly in the natural-gas-rich state of Alaska.”