Air Products in Louisiana Clean Energy Project

18.10.2021 - Industrial gases producer Air Products has announced its largest-ever investment in the US, a $4.5 billion clean energy complex in the state of Louisiana’s Ascension Parish. The company will build, own and operate the mammoth facility expected to go on stream in 2026, producing more than 750 million standard cubic feet (22.5 million cubic meters) per day of “blue” hydrogen and blue ammonia.

The project will create 170 permanent jobs in the US Gulf Coast chemicals belt, where almost all US, European and Asian petrochemical producers, along with multinational energy groups, have major operations. Air Products will provide all of the complex’s products, including blue hydrogen and co-products (liquid nitrogen, liquid oxygen and liquid argon) to customers globally.

A portion of the blue hydrogen produced will be compressed and supplied through Air Products’ more than 700-mile Gulf Coast hydrogen pipeline that extends from Galveston Bay in Texas to New Orleans, Louisiana. The network, which the company claims is the world’s largest, can pipe more than 1.6 billion cubic feet of hydrogen per day.

The gases company, which will operate the project under the name Blue Energy, said the balance of the blue hydrogen produced at the Louisiana site will be used to make blue ammonia that will be transported around the world and converted back into blue hydrogen for global hydrogen markets, including transportation and mobility.

Blue products are made from hydrocarbons as feedstock, and the CO2 generated in the process is usually captured and sequestered. The Ascension complex is being touted as world’s largest carbon capture-for-sequestration operation. Air Products said about 95%, or 5 million t/y of the CO2 generated on-site will be permanently sequestered in geologic pore space a mile below the earth’s surface. The company has already secured permits to drill injection wells, together with a partner, under the Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area.

Introducing the plans for the new complex, Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards and Air Products chief Seifi Ghasemi said it will make the state a leader in the US clean energy transition. Ghasemi said Air Products is “fully invested in and committed to projects that leverage its build-own-operate, technology, financial, and sustainability capabilities,” adding that this project “brings all of those core strengths together.”

Underscoring the importance of carbon capture and sequestration to Louisiana, Bel Edwards said the project is a “clear demonstration of the state government’s ability to grow the Louisiana economy while lowering the carbon footprint of industry.”

In the announcement, there was no mention of incentive funding, exemption from existing rules or guarantees as is common in Louisiana. However, the size of the investment and the governor’s remark that assuring quality manufacturing jobs while limiting environmental impacts is the vision of his Climate Initiatives Task Force could suggest that incentives may be in play.

Flap over carbon sequestration preference

Air Products will carry out the carbon sequestration together with Houston-based Capio Sequestration, part of Fidelis Infrastructure. Capio is expected to pay the state nearly $1.3 million up front in addition to $2.2 million annually in rent and $1.60 per t of carbon stored. Air Products will pay by the acre, yielding a total of $6.1 million plus $1.50/t of carbon stored.

According to local media reports, some other companies are unhappy with Air Products’ deal with the state.  At public hearings, Shell, Denbury Carbon Solutions and Perdue Petroleum are said to have protested the issuance of sequestration permits for this project alone, with Shell’s general manager for carbon capture telling the board that a plan proposed by his company for the same sequestration area could net the state $100 million more.

State and local officials also had gilded words for the investment, with Kate MacArthur, CEO of the Ascension Economic Development Corp, remarking that with the development of the clean hydrogen project the area is positioning itself to “become the clean energy capital of the US Gulf Coast.” For Adam Knapp, CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce, “the Capitol Region “is at the leading edge of the transitional energy sector.”

The Louisiana blue hydrogen project announcement follows Air Products’ announcement in June this year of a multi-billion-dollar net-zero hydrogen energy complex at Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Earlier, it revealed plans for a “green” ammonia joint venture at Neom, Saudi Arabia, powered by renewable energy.

Earlier this month, the gases company announced the start-up of its new liquid hydrogen plant at La Porte, Texas. At the same time, it unveiled plans to build a zero-carbon green liquid hydrogen production facility at an undisclosed location in the US Southwest.

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist