The air we breathe turns industrial

Nine years later, and with an investment of over TT $1 billion in the local economy, the company presently owns and operates three air separation units and one steam methane reformer supplying gaseous oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen via an extensive pipeline network to customers in the Point Lisas Industrial Estate.

The company also has a joint venture with Neal and Massy Holdings where it owns 42.7 percent of Industrial Gases Limited.

Air Liquide supplies liquid oxygen, nitrogen and argon to IGL which supplies bulk liquid and cylinder gases to companies in the Point Lisas Industrial Estate and the wider local market.

Recently, ALTTL officially commissioned its TT$400-million-720 Air Separation Unit (ASU) at Caribbean Drive, Point Lisas Industrial Estate.

The new facility has a production capacity of 720 tonnes per day of gaseous oxygen, over 500 tonnes per day of gaseous nitrogen, and more than 125 tonnes per day of liquid oxygen, nitrogen and argon.

Speaking to reporters following the commissioning ceremony, president and chief executive officer of American Air Liquide Holdings Michael Graff said the new plant takes “the air we breathe and it basically separates it into its purified components.”

“So oxygen, nitrogen, argon and other elements so each of those can provide different capabilities that enable different parts of the chemical or steel process which are being used here in point Lisas to go ahead and enable other various industries so utilisation of oxygen reduces energy requirements and allows for the production of higher quality steel and at the same time from a sustain ability standpoint it’s an environmentally friendly way to go ahead and meet the needs for that industry,” he explained.

Asked why the company identified Trinidad and Tobago as its springboard into the region and Latin American markets, Graff reaffirmed the company’s faith in the local economy and the ability of its local workforce.

“The economy of Trinidad, clearly there is a long-term strategic outlook for future growth in Trinidad and I would say the tremendous employee base that we have that really enables us to go ahead and continue to grow with the economy in Trinidad and actually to be an enabler of that growth so that we can attract other industries and other growth to go ahead and support the long term evolution of the country,” he said.

When combined, all of ALTTL plants are capable of producing more than 2,200 tonnes per day of gaseous oxygen, over 1,000 tonnes per day of gaseous nitrogen and more than 175 tonnes per day of liquid oxygen, nitrogen and argon.

According to Graff, the additional Air Liquide’s 720 ASU will “enhance its supply capabilities of oxygen, nitrogen and argon to its existing and rapidly expanding customer base in Trinidad as well as across the Caribbean and in Latin America.”

In her address, Energy Minister, Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan noted the importance of companies such as Air Liquide to the local economy.

“In addition to the separation of gases to produce the gaseous and liquid products, the plant will also produce them in the desired purity and quantity. Ladies and gentlemen this is an extremely important process and can be considered the backbone of a downstream sector that relies on nitrogen and argon to sanitise its operations and ensure the unhindered production and supply of many of our industrial products including methanol and ammonia in a safe and reliable way,” she said.

“In addition, all process plants which contain hydrocarbons will utilise large amounts of Nitrogen for various purposes, especially during Plant Turn-Around when various hydrocarbon-bearing systems have to be purged and gas freed for ‘hot’ or welding work. Therefore the commissioning of this plant will minimise the major concerns that operators have whenever they have to bring their plants down for maintenance. No longer will process plant downtime be incurred because of a shortage of nitrogen and argon.”

According to online sources, Air Liquide is a major French company supplying industrial gases and services to various industries including medical, chemical and electronic manufacturers. Founded in 1902, it is first in the world market in its field and now operates in over 75 countries. There is an emphasis on Research and Development (R&D) throughout the entire Air Liquide company. R&D targets the creation of not only industrial gases, but also gases that are used in products such as healthcare items, electronic chips, foods and chemicals. The major R&D groups within Air Liquide focus on analysis, bio-resources (foods and chemicals), combustion, membranes, modelling, and the production of Hydrogen (H2) gas.


"The air we breathe turns industrial"

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