Aberdeen-based Dominion Gas is Scotland’s only independent oil field service company, supplying diving, welding, industrial, laboratory, test and calibration gases; in addition it also provides bulk liquid gases and chemicals through its wholly-owned subsidiary ARGON ISOTANKS.
Over the past few years the company has experienced major changes, geared towards expanding its capabilities, and aiding its growth.
In 2008, the company made the decision to internationalise its business, looking to West Africa, specifically Ghana, as its starting point for overseas expansion.
This year, its potential for growth has taken a dramatic step forward, in combination with IGAS a specialist technology and engineering supplier to the gases industry, whereby both companies collaborated to successfully create the world’s first portable gas trans-fill system (PGTS).
The system is essentially a gas filling plant, packaged in moveable 20ft ISO containers. Dominion Gas can now take a complete plant to a remote site, rather than filling cylinders at the firm’s nearest gas plant and having to transport them over great distances to clients sites, this is both costly and ‘environmentally un-friendly’ because of the carbon emissions associated with transportation by road, rail or sea.
Dominion Gas Projects Director, Russel Davies, spoke at the launch of the new system, which was held in June, he said,
“We have been working on the Portable Gas Transfill System (PGTS) concept for quite some time and after deciding we would target Ghana, the mobile concept was taken from the design drawings to the new technology we now have in place.
Due to the high potential of the West African markets, it’s important to be able to be established and operational very quickly – traditional fixed installations take more than a year to get from the decision point to being fully operational. You also need to be able to get out quickly if it doesn’t work – to decommission a permanent facility can be a very expensive ordeal, whereas with the new trans-fill system we can have the equipment installed and operational, or uplifted, in two days.”
The equipment comprises of 20ft containers, with two ISO tanks sitting on top, storing the N2 and O2 cryogenic liquids. The liquid is cryogenically pumped, vaporised, and then put into cylinders – this is the same for oxygen, nitrogen, and argon (the pumping process for helium is slightly different).
Rob Lee, Projects and Business Director of iGAS, was instrumental in the designing of the new system, he said,
“One of the big challenges we had was how we were going to incorporate a standard ambient air vaporiser, which usually stands at 20-25ft high. We created a vaporiser which could be integrated into the inside of the main body of the frame, running around three sides of the container, taking the pumped (high pressure) cryogenic liquid to high pressure gas.
Other challenges we faced were issues such as the solid pipework (used to connect the supply containers to the fill container) being too stiff to allow easy movement and setup of the system; we overcame this by working with one of our partners to introduce a flexible pipework system. Helium was also another challenge; you still start with cryogenic – it comes in a trailer rather than an ISO tank – you vaporise it then compress it, as opposed to cryogenically pumping it, and then you put it into cylinders, so we had to introduce a hot water bath vaporiser, where it goes through lots of coils and comes out into a receiver on the other side.”
The technology is designed to cope with the harshest of environments, from the heat of Ghana, to the Arctic temperatures of Scandinavia.
A full system takes just 16 weeks to build, meaning Dominion Gas is now well positioned to be able to establish itself on an international scale as required in a relatively short space of time.
“It’s a significant investment for Dominion Gas and we expect to get significant returns on it moving into West Africa. It is our plan to hopefully start building one of these systems later in the year for another overseas location. We don’t want to be viewed as [just] a regionalised Aberdeen company, we want to be an International company and really branch out, and this is the first step.”