Air Liquide Arabia is to invest more than $35m in two air separation units (ASUs) in Saudi Arabia, against a backdrop of ever-expanding refining and petrochemical industries in the region.

The news comes ahead of gasworld conference’s return to the Middle East and Dubai in particular later this year, and following the news that Air Liquide had drawn-up a long-term hydrogen supply agreement with Saudi Aramco in September 2010.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the largest economy in the Middle East. Growth is driven by the expansion of the refining and petrochemical industries and the development of infrastructure projects, as is thought to be the case throughout much of the Middle East region.

Now, Saudi Aramco and Air Liquide Arabia have announced the signing of a new long-term nitrogen supply agreement for Saudi Aramco’s operations in Qurayyah, in the Eastern Province. The nitrogen will be used by Saudi Aramco in the processing of seawater related to oil production.

Under the terms of the agreement, Air Liquide Arabia will invest more than $35m (over €25m) in two ASUs with a total production capacity of 500 tonnes per day. The facility will be designed and built by Air Liquide Engineering teams and commissioned in 2012. It will also support growing industrial merchant needs in the Eastern Province, Air Liquide notes.

Growing presence
With this new contract agreed, coupled with the existing hydrogen supply agreement for Saudi Aramco’s large-scale refinery in Yanbu and an already strong foothold in the Middle East, Air Liquide is developing a thriving presence in the region.

It’s understood that Air Liquide Al Khafrah Industrial Gases has also started up a new high purity filling centre in Dammam, Saudi Arabia to deliver specialty gases to its key petrochemical customers. The investment for these new capabilities and the supply chain for bulk gases is believed to be $10m (more than €7m).

Pierre Dufour, Senior Executive Vice-President of the Air Liquide Group supervising the Middle East Zone, said in a statement, “With those new investments, Air Liquide demonstrates its capacity to accompany its customers at all stages of their industrial processes particularly in the main industrial hubs.”

“These investments also reinforce our growing presence in all aspects of the Saudi Arabia economy, where we continue to develop our industrial gas infrastructure in support, not only of the energy sector, a growth driver for Air Liquide, but also in the evolving non-energy sector.”