Air Products has signed a long-term contract with one of China’s largest coal-based fertiliser and methanol producers, to supply onsite gaseous oxygen and nitrogen for its phase three coal-to-chemicals project in Weinan Hi-Tech Zone (WHTZ) in Western China.

The Weihe Clean Energy Company Limited is a subsidiary of Shaan’xi Weihe Coal Chemical Group Ltd and Air Products will build, own and operate a new air separation unit (ASU) on Weihe’s site near Xi’an, the capital city of Shaan’xi Province.

Scheduled to come on-stream towards the end of 2010, the ASU plant will produce more than 2000 tpd of oxygen and in addition, Air Products will supply liquid bulk gases to the fast growing merchant market around Xi’an.

The new ASU will be designed and built primarily by Air Products’ engineering and manufacturing centres in China.

Howard Castle-Smith, Vice President of Tonnage Gases Asia, Air Products, reflected, “The success of our large scale projects in China demonstrates our capabilities to help customers win with technology, efficiency and low cost. By leveraging our global expertise and local resources, we are in a very good position to execute these projects and meet our customers’ increasing requirements.”

“With this contract and investment, we are gaining significant momentum in our Tonnage Gases business to serve petrochemical and refinery customers in China.”

Liquid business
As well as supplying Weihe, Air Products will expand its liquid product capacity to provide a full range of atmospheric gases including oxygen, nitrogen and argon for the fast growing area around Xi’an to meet the growing demand of the electronics and general industries.

Wilbur Mok, President of Air Products Asia, explained, “We are honoured to play a role in supporting the development of the petrochemical industry in China. Our facility will be one of the first in that region to produce liquid products.”

“It puts us in a very competitive position to meet the growing product demand that is driven by strong economic and industrial development in the region, in a very cost-effective and efficient way.”

Petrochemical production
Weihe Clean Energy currently produces methanol and dimethyl ether(DME) and will produce methanol, acetic acid and acetic anhydride in its phase three expansion project. The company will use the high-pressure oxygen in the coal gasification process to produce syngas (synthesis gas), which can be further separated into carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen.

Syngas, CO and hydrogen are important precursors to produce other basic chemicals such as ammonia, methanol and acetic acid, which are essential in the production of a variety of products including paints, adhesives, plastics, and hundreds of other products for the growing consumer markets in China.