Air Products has announced that China’s first air separation unit (ASU) facility that uses liquefied natural gas (LNG) cold energy to produce industrial gases has been brought on-stream.

Located in Putian, the plant is a joint venture with CNOOC Energy Technology & Services Limitedand is capable of producing over 600 tons per day (tpd) of liquid oxygen, nitrogen and argon to supply the fast growing industrial gases market in Fujian Province – especially in the Xiamen, Putian, Fuzhou triangle.

Air Products formed the joint venture in 2007 with CNOOC Energy Technology & Services Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), one of the largest state-owned oil companies and a leading offshore oil and gas producer in the country.

The first of its kind in China, the ASU plant is designed to liquefy air at low temperatures by using cold energy released during the LNG re-gasification process to produce industrial gas products. The plant brings tremendous environmental and energy efficiency benefits compared to conventional processes as this ASU plant consumes approximately 50% less electricity by using the LNG cold energy to aid in liquefaction and to produce chilled glycol.

The chilled glycol displaces the cooling water utility previously used for air compression in the ASU plant, thereby also conserving water resources. Additionally, the use of LNG cold energy technology decreases carbon dioxide emissions by reducing electrical use in operation of the ASU.

“The use of cold energy significantly reduces power consumption in the industrial gas production process and helps protect the environment. This facility supports the Chinese government’s mission to save energy and reduce emissions by maximising the utilisation of natural gas and also Air Products’ overall sustainability goals of operational productivity improvements to reduce energy consumption and emissions,” said Bob Dixon, Senior Vice-President and General Manager of Global Merchant Gases at Air Products.

“We are deeply honoured to partner with CNOOC in making a reality this first-ever use of LNG cold energy integrated with an ASU in China. We appreciate the strong support of the CNOOC leadership, and that of the Fujian Province and Putian City governments for this project.”

Cold energy is the energy contained in the LNG, which is at a temperature of -162 degrees Centigrade (-262 degrees Fahrenheit). The energy is released when the LNG is re-gasified to its natural gas state for multiple application uses. Most of the time, the great amounts of cold energy released in the re-gasification process are not used beneficially.