Air Liquide has just won a long-term contract to supply hydrogen to Neste Oil’s Renewable Diesel plant in Rotterdam, providing a new world scale production unit which represents around €160m of investment for the group.

The Rotterdam/Antwerp (the Netherlands-Belgium) basin is the largest chemical and petrochemical basin in Europe, representing 12% of the entire European refining capacity. Air Liquide has invested over €800m in the basin over the last 12 years, while the hydrogen market in the basin continues to witness sustained growth of around 20% per year.

To meet the industrial gas requirements of Neste Oil, Air Liquide is investing in a new world-scale hydrogen production unit (Steam Methane Reformer - SMR) with a production capacity of 130,000 m3/hour. This represents an increase of more than 30% of its existing hydrogen production capacity in the basin, with the unit due to start up in 2011.

This new SMR unit will be designed and built by Lurgi teams who joined the group in 2007 through the acquisition by Air Liquide. The project is the result of the new synergies developed within the Engineering and Construction division of the group.

Guy Salzgeber, member of Air Liquide’s Executive Committee and Vice-President for European Operations, declared, “With this new world scale investment in hydrogen and the developments planned for the hydrogen distribution network, Air Liquide will offer to all its petrochemical and refining sector customers in the Rotterdam/Antwerp basin a unique combination of production capacity, cost competitiveness and reliability.”

“The group thereby allows them to improve the efficiency of their processes and to assume their environmental responsibilities.”

As well as the supply to the new Neste Oil plant in Rotterdam, the newly announced unit will be connected to Air Liquide’s Northern European hydrogen network which currently includes eight hydrogen units in operation and more than 900km of pipeline, providing high reliability to its customers. This should ensure the group is able to meet the increasing needs of the customers of the basin.

Air Liquide has increased its worldwide production capacity of hydrogen by more than 50% over the past three years and is now operating 200 hydrogen units worldwide, of which 40 are large units.