The new facility makes PG Group the only manufacturer in Africa with two float glass manufacturing lines (there are only three in Africa) operating side by side.
The new plant is able to produce quality float glass, as required by the automotive and building sectors. The plant was commissioned in April this year and is now in full production, manufacturing 110 000 t/y.
This gives PG Group a total float glass-manufacturing capacity of 260 000 t/y to meet the requirements of Africa south of the equator, as well as to export.
The float line is 750 m long, with this length including the batch plant, which was also upgraded during the construction phase, to secure raw material supply to PFG’s existing float line, the new float line, and the company’s patterned glass manufacturing line, which is situated on the same site. The new float line is adjacent to the existing float line and shares a stacking and warehousing back end.
Construction of the new plant took two years and features world- class technology. A feature of the new float line is the automatic offloading system, where a stacker operation sorts the glass sheets for maximum efficiency and for the use of space.
The raw materials used to produce float glass include sand, silica, sodium carbonate, dolomite and limestone. The raw material batch is fed into the furnace, where it is heated to about 1 500 degrees Celsius. The furnace is fired using natural gas delivered from Mozam- bique through the Sasol gas line.
At a temperature of 600 degrees Celsius, the molten glass exits the float bath, where impurities in the glass are melted to produce a flat and parallel surface.
The glass is then cooled at a temperature of 200 degrees Celsius in the annealing lehr, where the cutability of glass is determined for downstream process.
Following the successful commissioning of the new plant, planning is under way to repair PFG’s first float line furnace, which comes to the end of its campaign in 2009. This repair will see the line brought off-line for the first time in 17 years, as the plant has operated continuously since it was built in 1991.
This new float line project was completed on time and within 5% of the original budget, said PG Group CEO Stuart Jennings.
He said that such a project indi- cated the manufacturing sector’s pledge to driving growth. “If we are going to make inroads into our unemployment rate, reduce crime, and alleviate our balance of trade position, it is manufacturing and investments such as this project that are going to be central to driving growth.”
Jennings added that large investments of this nature nurture small and medium-sized businesses.
Sharing similar sentiments, Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo- Ngcuka praised the manufacturing industry and said, “Such an investment by PG Group is a recognised contribution of the industry in chasing the target for job creation and skills.”
Mlambo-Ngcuka added that national fixed investment in South Africa is an added attraction for foreign investors. “We do not sing enough praises for national fixed investment in this country.”
PG Group chairperson Ronnie Lubner said that the company’s float glass manufacturing facility will continue to supply the country’s need for glass, which is a strategic item to the country’s development. He said that glass manufacturing was pivotal to South Africa’s building and motor industry.