Gilwood Fabricators complete double column cryogenic distillation system

Date published: 28 March 2019

Gilwood Fabricators in Heywood completed their first double column cryogenic distillation system which shipped out to Sheffield on Friday (22 March).

The 20-tonne, 20-metre-long cryogenic distillation system, also known as a ‘coldbox’, is used to separate and purify air into nitrogen. The basic process is to cool air to extremely low temperatures of around -194°C and distil it into oxygen, nitrogen and argon. 

Gilwood has manufactured quite a few of these systems over the past 10 years with a single column inside, however this is the first double column system the company has manufactured. The double column not only affects the size of the unit but also profoundly affects the power required to run the system.


The cryogenic distillation system is used to separate and purify air into nitrogen
The cryogenic distillation system is used to separate and purify air into nitrogen


Joint Managing Director, Matt Gilmartin said: “This is one of the largest systems we have built in the 55 years we have been in business. The unit was so large we needed to skate the coldbox out of the workshop using a diesel FLT for propulsion and used two external cranes to load it onto transport.

“We started building the double column in June last year and then won the work to build the system around it in October. From the outside it just looks like a large box but inside is a labyrinth of pipework interconnecting columns, heat exchangers, valves and instruments.”


The coldbox being shipped out
The coldbox being shipped out


A massive amount of work has gone into the £200,000 project so far, taking about 32 weeks to get to this stage

After the system is painted in Sheffield, it will be delivered to the client, Linde, for factory testing.

Once the testing is complete the system will ultimately be owned BOC Gases and installed to generate nitrogen onsite at Bausch & Lomb in Ireland.

Matt added: “We are now looking into the feasibility of building even larger cryogenic distillation systems as this next generation of coldbox is a popular replacement for older less economic systems all over the world.”

Peter Gilmartin, former Managing Director of the company, added: “This is a very brilliant achievement for the company; well done to everyone involved.”

Gilwood Fabricators in Heywood was set up in 1964 by Luke Gilmartin and his partner, Mr Heywood, to service the textile industry.

As the textile industry declined, Gilwoods had to expand, and did so – into the stainless-steel fabrication sector. 

Gilwood Fabricators produce a wide range of stainless-steel fabrication products that are tailor-made to individual specifications, including pressure and storage vessels, chemical dosing skids, skid mounted package units, vortex mixers, oil separation columns, scrubbers, hoppers and specially machined parts. 

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