Air Products’ Kochi refinery: A world-class industrial gas complex

As Air Products is looking forward to commissioning the second phase of the project (syngas unit) at Kochi, the global industrial gases specialist remains committed to the build-own-operate (BOO) model worldwide, and especially in India, says Richard Boocock.
Air Products’ Kochi refinery: A world-class industrial gas complex
As Air Products is looking forward to commissioning the second phase of the project (syngas unit) at Kochi, the global industrial gases specialist remains committed to the build-own-operate (BOO) model worldwide, and especially in India, says Richard Boocock.
 
Air Products is a world-leading industrial gases company in operation for over 75 years. The company’s core industrial gases business provides atmospheric and process gases and related equipment to manufacturing markets, including refining and petrochemical, metals, electronics, and food and beverage. Air Products is also the world’s leading supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG) process technology and equipment. Since 2009, Air Products has expanded its industrial gas operations, engineering capabilities and supply presence in India. From an engineering center based in Pune, the company provides technology and equipment for air separation, hydrogen generation and 
associated technologies for industrial gases applications. 
 
Brief History 
In 1940, Air Products’ founder Leonard Parker Pool developed the on-site build-own-operate (BOO) model for industrial gases, allowing companies that had previously had to buy and operate industrial gas plants, to now be able to buy industrial gases ‘over the fence’. Pool founded Air Products, through which he would build, own and operate air separation facilities to serve iron, steel and other industries. His invention truly disrupted the industry and brought significant value to customers through the benefits of turning what was a significant capital cost into an operating cost and having a specialist team of engineers build and operate the plants with enhanced reliability and efficiency. 
Fast-forward to the early 1990’s, the introduction of clean air legislation in California, USA, resulted in oil refineries requiring major investments for reconfiguration, as well as significantly increased quantities of hydrogen to decrease various pollutants in gasoline. Based on years of success in the US, Air Products took another pioneering step in developing and scaling up the concept of build own operate world scale hydrogen plants. Over the next two decades Air Products became the world’s biggest producer and supplier of ‘on-purpose’ BOO hydrogen to the refining industry, with over 50 plants worldwide, and major infrastructure investments such as the 1300 km gulf coast connection pipeline, linking Air Products’ world scale plants across Louisiana and Texas in the US Gulf Coast. 
 
The Kochi refinery in India 
India is one of the key growth markets where the company has recently launched a vast hydrogen production plant in Kochi, Kerala. In October 2013, Air Products signed a long-term agreement with Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) to build, own, and operate a world-scale hydrogen facility for the BPCL Integrated Refinery Expansion Projects (IREP). Air Products’ Kochi Industrial Gas Complex went on stream in 2017 on time to meet the requirement of BPCL’s IREP project in producing transportation fuels compliant to first Bharat IV and then Bharat VI specifications. The project is believed to be the single biggest foreign direct investment in Kochi, Kerala. In January 2018, Air Products signed another long-term agreement with BPCL to build, own and operate a new syngas (a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide used for manufacturing a wide variety of chemicals, as well as producing steam, electricity, nitrogen, and oxygen) production facility at the Kochi Refinery to supply BPCL’s new Propylene Derivatives Petrochemical Project (PDPP). 
 
The commissioning of the IREP in 2017 has made the BPCL Kochi Refinery the largest “public sector” refinery in the country and has enabled it to manufacture auto-fuels complying with the required Bharat Stage IV (Euro IV) specifications and a greater depth of conversion. 
The new PDPP also enables BPCL to enter the Indian petrochemical market and enhance the value obtained from its refining operations. 
 
Key features of Kochi refinery 
Air Products’ facility in Kochi applies world-class environmental and safety standards and the first phase of the project (hydrogen unit) was completed with 10 million work-hours without having any safety incidents. The syngas unit (second phase of the project) applies Air Products’ proprietary cryogenic gas separation technologies to produce a hydrogen/carbon monoxide syngas which shall feed the new PDPP and will be used by BPCL to serve the growing domestic market in India. 
 
The addition of the syngas unit will complement the on-going operations of Air Products’ industrial gas complex. Advanced computer monitoring and optimization models, state-of-the-art machine learning and artificial intelligence, provide best in class tools to the Air Products team in what is believed to be the first in the industrial gases industry in India. 
 
The India team operates and maintains the facility 24 hours per day, 7 days per week and works closely with BPCL to ensure that their requirements are met in the most efficient and reliable manner. Unique highlights of the plant are the first-ever twin steam methane reformers designed and built by Air Products with a combined capacity of 16.4 tonnes per hour of hydrogen production and cryogenic syngas purification system to create a mixture of approximately 14 tonnes per hour of purified hydrogen and carbon monoxide. 
 
In early 2019, the Air Products Kochi team received well deserved recognition from the Factories & Boilers of Kerala, gaining the award for 'best factory for outstanding performance in safety and health for the year 2018'. And more recently, the Kochi facility was certified to ISO 9001:2015, making it the latest Air Products facility to be accredited. 
 
Investing in India 
As Air Products is looking forward to commissioning the second phase of the project (syngas unit) at Kochi, it remains committed to the BOO model worldwide, and especially in India. Whether through direct investments as Air Products, or through our joint venture partner, INOX-Air Products, the market for attractive investment opportunities in India is growing. The addition of world-beating gasification technologies to Air Products portfolio and being the forerunners in the gasification business globally, brings unique value to India through value adding BOO investments, supporting the continued development of India’s domestic chemicals industry through gasification of domestic coal, lignite and petroleum coke, and thereby reducing imports of dollar-based petrochemicals. 
 
As one of the fastest growing economies in the world, Air Products is certainly focused on making sound investments in India with reputable companies like BPCL and wants to continue growing its presence and strong relationships in the region as the safest, and most innovative industrial gas company in the world.
 
About the Author:
Richard Boocock is the Senior Vice President, Chief Information Officer and Special Advisor to the Air Products Chairman
(Communication provided by the management of the company)
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