Air Products on innovation, hydrogen and new business realities

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James Solomon, Director - LNG, Air Products
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As one of the global leaders in LNG technology and equipment, Air Products understands the specific needs of customers to drive continuous improvement. As the energy offerings evolve, new gas players must ensure that LNG facilities are not only resilient but robust and flexible in order to meet the new business realities.

Gastech Insights spoke with Director – LNG at Air Products, James Solomon at the Gastech Governing Body Meeting in March to hear his expert insights. Read the full interview below to discover his views on the global LNG market dynamics.

Gastech Insights: Air Products is jointly building the first fuel cell vehicle fueling station in Saudi Arabia – How is hydrogen contributing to the future energy mix?

James Solomon: Hydrogen can be made from a multitude of sources containing hydrogen and as it is the most abundant element on earth, it is the perfect long-term fuel. Hydrogen feedstocks could be various hydrocarbons such as natural gas and oil or water, therefore, hydrogen is considered the forever fuel by many. 

Hydrogen, when converted to energy in a fuel cell, provides efficient, sustainable and environmentally sound energy. With limited energy resources and global warming concerns, hydrogen is regarded as one of a plethora of solutions. It is more efficient than internal combustion engines, and its only exhaust is water. Hydrogen is expected to be a major energy contributor in the future.

Gastech Insights: How can energy players ensure LNG facilities are resilient in the new business realities?

James Solomon: The evolving LNG market requires facilities that are both robust and flexible while achieving reduced carbon emissions through efficient liquefaction. In today’s LNG market with new gas sources, it is often desirable to design a flexible LNG plant to account for changing feed gas composition, changing ambient conditions and changing market needs.

Designs may require an innovative system to remove varying levels of heavy hydrocarbons from a new feed gas source, or innovative post-treatment to capture helium or remove varying levels of nitrogen. Additionally, there is sometimes interest in staged investment for baseload LNG plants in which a project developer is faced with one or more constraints that preclude investment in large LNG trains. Alternatively, parallel equipment in each individual train may be desirable for efficient deep turn-down.

Determining the best solution requires careful consideration of the interaction between design choices, project constraints and business needs. Given a clear understanding of the project developer’s critical success factors, the owner, EPC, process licensors, and equipment suppliers can closely collaborate to help develop the best overall solution for a given project.

Air Products offer a variety of efficient liquefaction processes and equipment designs to meet whatever objectives the project developer may demand including mega-trains, multiple small trains, modular designs, designs suitable for offshore service (FLNG) and processes for any feedgas composition or ambient conditions.

Gastech Insights: With the number of onshore mega-projects looking to grow, is this the end for FLNG?

James Solomon: We don’t believe so as we continue to see opportunities for floating plants, as well as small, mid-scale, and large baseload plants including mega-trains.  FLNG will always have a fit when dictated by economics.  For example, FLNG will be a viable option when building a liquefaction facility on a floating platform is more cost-effective than a land-based facility coupled with a pipeline to shore and marine loading facilities.

Similarly, FLNG may make sense to process feedgas from smaller, remote, offshore gas fields with limited life or oil fields with associated gas. In that case, FLNG provides the option of relocating the liquefaction facility to another similar field when the original field becomes depleted. 

Gastech Insights: Gastech is coming to Houston this year, what are you looking forward to this year?

James Solomon: With the shale gas revolution continuing to develop and evolve in North America, it makes sense for Gastech to be hosted by the city which is the energy capital of the United States. Many developing LNG projects are making significant progress, so Gastech this fall promises to coincide with an exciting time for the LNG industry. 

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