Air Products: advanced biofuels create big industrial gas demand

| September 08, 2011

The renewable fuel standard isn’t only driving the production of biofuels, it’s also increasing the need for industrial gases like oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen. Air Products, the provider of atmospheric gases, performance materials and other services related to industrial gas use has first-hand experience of the effect of RFS2, as the company has been selected to supply the Ineos Bioenergy 8 MMgy advanced biofuel facility with on-site oxygen, compressed dry air and nitrogen.

According to Air Products, many of the advanced biofuels projects under construction or in the planning and design phase require oxygen for gasification steps, hydrogen for oil upgrading to a final biofuel product and nitrogen as an inert and fluidizing medium. In 2010, Air Products reported revenues of $9 billion, and those revenues may stay high due to the company’s belief that over the next 10 years, the global market demand for biofuels will create a significant growth for industrial gas.

The Ineos Vero Beach, Fla. facility currently under construction will receive a PRISM Oxygen VSA generator, a system that is ideal for lower purity, on-site oxygen applications that offer an alternative to cryogenically produced or truck-delivered liquid oxygen, according to Air Products.

Nelson Squires, vice president of North American merchant gases at Air Products, said the company was excited to receive the contract from Ineos, and that over the past few years the company “has seen growing interest in industrial gas supply for advanced biofuels projects.”

In addition to the renewable energy industries, the PRISM Gas Generation system is also used by roughly 1,500 customers in 30 countries, serving the glass, steel, electronics, semiconductors, chemicals and food processing industries. The on-site oxygen supply system that will be installed at the Ineos plant uses a proprietary molecular sieve and adsorption technology to separate air into two principal components, nitrogen and oxygen. The oxygen (at a specified purity) is supplied to the application and the remaining impure nitrogen, water and carbon dioxide are vented back into the atmosphere. Unlike cryogenic air separation processes, the company explained, the VSA generator works at ambient temperature to reduce power consumption. According the Air Products, the Florida facility will begin using the on-site oxygen generator in 2012.

In 2010, Air Products opened a testing facility in Allentown, Pa., allowing it to test combustion technology and industrial gases. The lab can also test or optimize gasification processes used to produce fuels from coal, petcoke and biomass. One of the key areas Air Products has tested at the lab is the process of carbon dioxide capture.