Air Liquide is building an ultra-modern hydrogen factory in Antwerp’s port area

Improved energy efficiency and lower CO2 emissions
Large Industries
22 January 2020

In February 2019, Air Liquide began construction of the SMR-X, a next-generation hydrogen plant. Work started on the high-tech production unit on the Covestro site in the port of Antwerp.

“Air Liquide often builds plants on a host site,” explains Aalzen Mooi, Large Industries Project Manager at Air Liquide. “This allows us to be closer to our customers, which in turn reduces the amount of transport issues. In this case, Covestro takes approximately 40% of the hydrogen production. We send the remaining 60% to other customers, such as BASF, ExxonMobil and Total, via our pipeline network.”

The Covestro site in the port of Antwerp has been in operation since 1961. Here, plastic polycarbonate is manufactured, as well as polyether and aniline. Covestro will also soon be using hydrogen for the production of aniline, a compound mainly used in the construction, automotive and household appliance industries.

Improved energy efficiency and reduced CO2 emissions

“In energy terms, the SMR-X is different from a normal Steam Methane Reformer unit because it’s designed so that excess steam is no longer produced,” Aalzen adds. “As a result, energy efficiency is higher and CO2 emissions are reduced. Covestro can also use some of the CO2 to produce ammonium carbonate.”

The Air Liquide team at the Covestro site expects to put the SMR-X into service by the summer of 2020. “With this, we can offer our customers the possibility of buying cleaner hydrogen and reduce their ecological footprint,” confirms Aalzen. “And since the SMR-X produces 56,000 m³ of hydrogen per hour at a purity of 99.99%, the new plant will significantly increase the availability of hydrogen in and around Antwerp.”

Shaping the world of tomorrow

The SMR-X’s innovative design has also attracted the attention of the Flanders Government. Philippe Muyters, the Minister for Work, Economy, Innovation and Sport, said: “This project does much more than just pursue economic success, it helps shape the world of tomorrow.”

“Air Liquide and Covestro are once again proving that innovation is the answer”, he continued. “Because in this project everyone wins, not only our society because of the undeniable environmental benefits and our entrepreneurs because of the security of supply, but also our economy with the anchoring of the chemical industry. In short: Air Liquide takes innovation and sustainability in our region to a higher level.”

The Flanders Government has also made a financial contribution to the installation’s construction, which has a total price tag of around EUR 80 million.

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