The Woodchem production facility in Piet Retief is the largest in sub-Saharan Africa, producing 100 677 tonnes of UF resin annually. In December 2014 a pressurisation fan was installed at the plant, which increased UF resin production capacity by 9.7%. Storage facilities at the plant were also increased with an additional 500 m3 of resin storage capacity.
UF is produced in a continuous-flow process using methanol and oxygen. Air extracted from the atmosphere contains the oxygen that reacts with the methanol through a catalytic oxidation system to produce formalin (the base product for formaldehyde and UF). The methanol reacts with the oxygen at a concentration level of 11%. In order to increase the methanol flow, and ultimately the final product, a greater volume of oxygen had to be added to the system to ensure a consistent concentration level and methanol conversion rate.
A turbo charger (pressurisation fan) was installed in the continuous-flow system, enabling the plant to extract a higher volume of air from the atmosphere to maintain the required level of oxygen concentration. The increased volume of air directly increased the volume of methanol being processed, which ultimately enabled the factory to produce at higher volumes. The extra 3 700 tons of methanol consumed allowed an additional 10 600 tons of resin to be produced per annum.