"Our collaboration with Air Liquide is outstanding"

Peter Verdonck, Covestro Antwerp
Large Industries
9 November 2021

Covestro is one of the world's biggest producers of polymers. The group has no fewer than 50 production sites and employs around 17,000 people. Covestro's polymer materials are destined for various markets, including the automotive and transport industries, the construction sector, the wood-processing industry, the furniture industry and the electronics sector.

The Antwerp site — established in 1961 when Covestro was still known as Bayer — produces high-quality intermediates and additives for polymers such as polycarbonates, aniline and polyether. The Antwerp site has also become Covestro’s world solutions center for process development and technology relating to polycarbonates. This means that the experts from Antwerp offer advice all over the world on the planning, construction, launch and optimisation of each new Covestro polycarbonate plant.

"To be able to respond to the growing global demand for better insulated homes, we’re looking to expand our aniline production significantly in the near future," explains Peter Verdonck, Production & Venture Manager at Covestro.

From pipeline to SMR-X
"Naturally, we discussed these expansion plans with Air Liquide quite some time ago. This is only natural, because they’re one of our most important suppliers. Or to put it another way: without the gases from Air Liquide, our production would pretty much come to a standstill."

All this makes it clear that a secure supply of the various gases is crucial for the Covestro site in Antwerp. "I can't remember a time when our site here hasn't worked with Air Liquide, and all that time the security of supply has been excellent. That applies to nitrogen, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen as well as carbon dioxide."

Initially, Air Liquide only supplied gases via its pipeline network, but the company has now also started using a hydrogen plant at the Covestro site in Antwerp. This is a next generation SMR-X (Steam Methane Reformer) plant, which in time will also be able to supply CO.

"Air Liquide often builds plants on host sites," says Aalzen Mooi, Large Industries Project Manager at Air Liquide. "This puts us closer to our customers and of course transport needs are also reduced. Covestro already buys about 45% of our SMR-X’s hydrogen production, but that percentage will go up even more, because Covestro wants to significantly step up production."

CO2 as a raw material
Covestro also extracts a portion of the CO2 emissions from the SMR-X for use as a raw material to produce ammonium carbonate. "Of course it’s nice to make an extra contribution like this to help reduce CO2 emissions," adds Peter. "Covestro also wants to become fully circular in time. A step in this direction is the power purchase agreement we recently signed with ENGIE in Antwerp, as a result of which half of all electricity needs on the site will be covered by wind energy.”

“And in a few years, Avaio — an American investment company — is going to build a desalination plant on our site to convert dock water into process water. We then won’t need to use drinking water any more in our processes. This spring, the Antwerp site was also ISCC-certified, which means that we can use bio-based raw materials in our production processes."

Cooperation on site
"Every three months we have a meeting with Air Liquide at site level, where we discuss subjects of mutual interest, such as maintenance, special events, and so on."

"Our collaboration with Air Liquide is excellent in every way," continues Peter. "Communication is open and no-nonsense, with everyone taking responsibility so that both parties can rely on each other. Air Liquide has been supplying us with high-quality raw materials for years without a hitch — security of supply is extremely high. Their offer is also commercially very attractive to us."