The US industrial gases firm, Praxair, Inc. has announced plans to expand its hydrogen capacity in Texas and Louisiana. The company has also outlined plans to extend the existing Mississippi River corridor hydrogen pipeline system under a long-term supply agreement with Valero Energy Corporation.

The strategy is expected to bring South Louisiana into close competition with Texas in terms of regional hydrogen capacity. Mike Jordan, Vice President of the South Region to Praxair’s North American Industrial Gases business unit, described the projects as a ‘significant investment’ in supply for the region.

He remarked, “These projects represent a significant investment in supply for our customers in the lower Mississippi River corridor as they upgrade and expand their own production capabilities. They put the southern Louisiana region in a position similar to Texas in terms of competitive hydrogen supply alternatives.”

Plans are set to incorporate an extension of the Mississippi pipeline to 270m standard cubic feet per day (scfd). Meanwhile, in Louisiana, Praxair is installing a new 135 million scfd hydrogen plant at Valero’s St Charles refinery. Under a long-term agreement, Valero will consume 120m scfd of hydrogen and approximately 400,000 pounds per hour of steam at its new 50,000 barrels per day hydrocracker. The plant is set for completion in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Similarly, the company’s Louisiana pipeline is to be extended by 50 miles, connecting the new hydrogen plant in St Charles to Praxair’s existing complex in Geismar, Louisiana. This facility is scheduled to be operational by the second quarter of 2012.

Completing the expansion, the firm will install a new 135 million scfd hydrogen plant at Valero’s Port Arthur, Texas, refinery. Plant start-up is scheduled for the first quarter of 2013 and under the new contracts, Praxair will supply 150 million scfd of hydrogen and approximately 200,000 pounds per hour of steam to Valero’s 50,000 barrels per day hydrocracker. Hydrogen will be supplied from the new plant in conjunction with Praxair’s one billion scfd pipeline and storage complex.