Air Liquide and Covestro, a world-leading supplier of high-tech polymer materials, have recently signed a new long-term contract for the supply of hydrogen at Covestro’s production site in the port area of Antwerp. Air Liquide will invest 80 million euros in the construction of a "new generation" hydrogen production unit. This state-of-the-art plant will be fitted with a new Air Liquide proprietary technology that improves energy efficiency and the overall environmental footprint of the production process. The hydrogen produced will also enable Air Liquide to supply customers in this industrial basin in Europe.

In connection with this new long-term contract, the hydrogen will be used in the production of aniline, which is one of the base chemicals of the polyurethanes found in many applications in the sectors of construction, automotive or home appliances.

Air Liquide will design, build and operate a “next-generation” hydrogen production unit - SMR-X™1- producing hydrogen with an increased energy efficiency and a reduced carbon footprint. Overall natural gas consumption to produce hydrogen, as well as CO2 emissions will be reduced by around 5% compared with conventional SMR. At the same time, part of the CO2 generated during the production process will be captured by Covestro and used as a feedstock in its production process. By capturing carbon and upgrading the recovered CO2, this model is part of a circular economy system.

Expected to start operation in 2020, this new SMR-X™ unit will offer optimal performances in terms of energy efficiency, safety and reliability. The new plant will also support the development of the Covestro production site in Benelux and will strengthen Air Liquide’s existing network for the supply of hydrogen in the Antwerp industrial area.

Guy Salzgeber, Executive Vice-President and member of the Air Liquide group’s Executive Committee supervising industrial activities in Europe, said: "We are delighted to strengthen our partnership with Covestro, a strategic customer of the Group. With this next-generation hydrogen plant, Air Liquide demonstrates its ability to meet its customers’ needs thanks to solutions offering an increased energy efficiency and a reduced carbon footprint. This project illustrates our innovation capacity and enable us to reinforce our presence in one of the most dynamic industrial basins of northern Europe.”

Volker Weintritt, Managing Director of Covestro in Antwerp, said: “We are pleased to strengthen our partnership with Air Liquide. Thanks to this new investment, not only will a reliable and flexible supply of raw materials to our site be guaranteed, but also the new facility and its capacities could open up new perspectives for our Antwerp site.”