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Air Products to invest millions in world scale SMR

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Air Products, a leading global hydrogen provider, held a groundbreaking ceremony at Covestro’s Baytown, Texas facility where Air Products announced it will invest US$350 - 400 million to build, own and operate a world scale steam methane reformer (SMR). The SMR will produce hydrogen and carbon monoxide (CO) to be supplied to Covestro and other customers linked to Air Products’ Gulf Coast Hydrogen and CO Pipeline Networks. The plant, with a planned start up in 2018, is already completely sold out.

“We have worked with Covestro (formerly Bayer MaterialScience) for decades and look forward to being an important industrial gas supplier to them in Baytown for many more years to come. The new SMR strengthens Air Products’ position in the Texas carbon monoxide (CO) market and enhances our well established hydrogen supply network,” said Corning Painter, Executive Vice President, Industrial Gases at Air Products.

The SMR and cold box will be located on land leased from Covestro, a world leading manufacturer of high-tech polymer materials for key industries, headquartered in Leverkusen, Germany. The SMR will produce approximately 125 million ft3/d of hydrogen and a world scale supply of carbon monoxide. Covestro products and application solutions are nearly everywhere in modern life. With its innovative strength, Covestro is constantly coming up with new developments that benefit society and the environment.

“Safe, reliable and efficient operations through our people remains extremely important at Covestro. We continually develop our people to improve safety and respect the environment, as well as optimise our processes to improve our yields to top levels in industry, which means less raw materials, less waste and higher efficiencies,” said Dr. Klaus Schäfer, Covestro’s Chief Industrial Operations Officer. “Covestro’s alignment with Air Products will further improve our Baytown site’s reliable supply to our valued customers.”

Covestro’s Baytown facility, its largest plant in North and Central America, was established in 1971 and employs a workforce of 1100 with an additional 750 contractors. Covestro’s primary products at its Baytown site include toluene diisocyanate (TDI) and methylene diphenylene isocyanates (MDI), in addition to coatings and adhesives, inorganic basic chemicals, polycarbonates, and polyurethanes. It is a leading supplier of high value polymers and innovative solutions for key sectors, such as transportation, construction, electronics, furniture, sports equipment and textiles.

The new SMR will be built through the global hydrogen alliance between Air Products and Technip, a world leader in project management, engineering and construction. The plant will feature the latest technology to maximise energy efficiency and reduce emissions, and will include optimal heat integration, which in turn lowers feedstock consumption. The plant configuration and deployed technologies support Air Products’ overall sustainability goals of reducing energy consumption and emissions.

For over 20 years the Air Products and Technip global alliance has provided the worldwide refining industry with competitive technology and world class safety. The alliance is responsible for over 35 hydrogen production plants located in 11 countries around the world and produces well over two billion ft3/d of hydrogen for clean fuels production. Technip provides the design and construction expertise for steam reformers while Air Products provides the gas separation technology. Air Products, through its extensive operating network, and Technip, from its large reference base, also bring effective operational and engineering knowledge to ‘design-in’ high reliability and efficiency. The plants are operated and maintained by Air Products under long term agreements with customers.

Painter also added that the ability for the new plant to connect to Air Products’ existing Gulf Coast Pipeline (GCP), the world’s largest hydrogen plant and pipeline network system, remains a value added plus for hydrogen customers in terms of ensuring product reliability. Air Products officially dedicated its GCP in 2012. The 600 mile pipeline span stretches from the Houston Ship Channel in Texas to New Orleans, Louisiana, and supplies customers with over 1.4 billion ft/d of hydrogen from over 22 hydrogen production facilities.

Pipelines offer a safe, robust and reliable supply of hydrogen to the refinery and petrochemical industries around the world. Globally, Air Products’ pipeline operational expertise is evidenced by its network of systems, besides the GCP, Air Products also has a hydrogen pipeline in California in the US, in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, and in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Hydrogen is widely used in petroleum refining processes to remove impurities found in crude oil such as sulfur, olefins and aromatics to meet product fuels specifications. Removing these components allows gasoline and diesel to burn cleaner and thus makes hydrogen a critical component in the production of cleaner fuels needed by modern, efficient internal combustion engines.

Adapted from press release by Francesca Brindle

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