Renergen has started to produce liquid helium at its Virginia Gas Project. “The helium module is now operational and being optimised,” the company said.
This announcement followed an update in December where Renergen said it was making good progress on the project.
“The nitrogen cold box achieved the targeted process conditions and is ready to be integrated with the LNG system offering the necessary pre-processing of the gas stream for helium liquefaction,” it said.
“Pre-cooling of the helium process achieved a temperature of -173.1° Celsius. Following this milestone, the helium cryogenic turboexpanders were integrated and achieved a target temperature of -248.15° Celsius.”
The final step of the process was the integration of the helium compressor which will further drop the temperature from -248.15° Celsius to the requisite liquefaction temperature of -269.1° Celsius.
Renergen said the commissioning has been slower than anticipated due to the detection of a leak in the vacuum walls of the pipes of the helium system.
The leak was located and corrected in December, allowing them to move to the final step of commissioning with the integration of the helium compressor.
“Having the helium plant in operation and producing liquid helium is a truly spectacular achievement by the team who went above and beyond to achieve the major and critical milestone,” Renergen CEO Stefano Marani said.
“All components of the Phase 1 plant are now in operation, and South Africa joins the ranks of only eight countries in the world to produce this rare and valuable liquid.”