New equipment to boost jobs and spark innovation

Portugal’s leading supplier of industrial gases aims to expand business and become more competitive, by modernising factory equipment at its main site in Estarreja. The project is part supported by the EU and is mainly designed to have a positive impact on local skilled jobs.

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Thanks to the new installation, the Sociedade Portuguesa do Ar Líquido, Lda (Air Liquide Portugal) will be able to use natural gas rather than naphtha to make its products. The company will also use some of the funding to invest in new oxygen-making equipment at a second site.

Upping gas production

Founded in 1923, Air Liquide Portugal is a member of the multinational Groupe Air Liquide, which produces industrial gases for use in industry, health and the environment. The company is based in Estarreja, some 50 km south of Porto, and supplies a wide variety of applications to virtually all sectors of Portuguese industry. It has more than 300 employees.

The project aims to promote innovation in business, an objective of the ‘Competitiveness Factors’ Operational Programme in Portugal, through increased production of tradable goods and services. It covers plant, machinery and technical assistance. The main goal is the modernisation and expansion of the production facilities at Estarreja. These produce carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2) for other companies, to be used in the production of MDI (methylene diphenyl diisocyanate) and aniline.

The bulk of the project covers investment in (but not the construction of) a new SMR (steam methane reformer) unit, which runs on natural gas. This will produce up to 30 MN/m3 year of carbon monoxide and 122 MN/m3 year of hydrogen. At its site in Vila Velha de Ródão, the company will also make a small investment (3% of the project total) in new facilities to produce up to 8.1 MN/m3 year of liquid oxygen (O2) locally, rather than transporting it to customers by road tanker.

Employment guarantee

Expected benefits of the project include the maintenance of some 30 jobs at the company, and the indirect creation of some 250 jobs locally during the implementation phase in areas such as metallurgy, instrumentation, painting and security equipment. The project should also increase the technical knowledge of employees, ensuring that Air Liquide Portugal remains competitive and innovative.

In terms of environmental benefits, the project will enable a reduction in the company’s pollution emissions. An estimated 4% of the total investment costs will be spent on environment-type investments.


Draft date

21/02/2011