Air Products has announced it is to be a significant participant in a petroleum coke-fed gasification project planned by Eastman Chemical Inc. in the Gulf Coast, after the signing of a Letter of Intent.

The project will be one of the first major solid-fuel gasification facilities in the Gulf Coast and is intended to be located in Beaumont, Texas, where the $1.6bn plant will make low-cost intermediate chemicals such as methanol, hydrogen and ammonia.

Air Products will market hydrogen produced by the operation to its industry leading Gulf Coast hydrogen supply pipeline network and both construct and operate, new world-class air separation units (ASU's) to produce over 7,000 tpd of essential oxygen for smooth gasifier operation.

Alex Masetti, vice president of Tonnage Gases North America for Air Products, said, $quot;We are excited to be working with Eastman on this gasification project. The scope of this project integrates our two companies' core strengths and businesses. The combination of Eastman's gasification and chemical industry experience and Air Products' industrial gas and large project experience help to make the project attractive and viable.$quot;

This enthusiasm for the new project appears to be shared by David Gallaspy, director of Project Development for Eastman's gasification services, as he comments, $quot;We have a long association with Air Products and look forward to continuing our successful relationship in this exciting new project.$quot;

Construction of the plant is expected to be underway by early 2009 and permanent employment is anticipated to be approximately 250 strong. Eastman expects to have an equity position of 50 percent and to announce a co-investor in the near future.

Air Products' Gulf Coast pipeline networks provide a highly-reliable hydrogen supply to around 50 refinery and process industry customers, with the company committed to increasing the pipeline network in a manner that is consistent with the needs of key refining and petrochemical customers.