Very modern developments for the Portuguese chemicals industry

New investment will help provide vital industrial gases to homes, hospitals and industries across Portugal.

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It will create 250 temporary and 30 long-term jobs, at the same time as modernising production facilities and supporting local trade.

A historic business moves into the 21st century

The Sociedade Portuguesa de Ar Líquido was founded in 1923. It was the first company of its kind in Portugal, selling oxygen and other industrial gases. Today Sociedade Portuguesa de Ar Líquido products are present in almost all sectors of Portuguese industry, notably the hospital and welding businesses. 74 % of the company’s capital now belongs to the French group ‘Air Liquide International’. The company today has 240 employees, over 35 000 customers and 70 distributers. It is widely seen as a leader in its market, with an annual turnover of about 75 million euros.

The new investment, funded through the European Regional Development Fund, will help modernise and expand its production sites, improving the company’s competitiveness, and that of the Portuguese chemicals industry. The project was deemed to be in line with all relevant state aid and environmental legislation. Once the project is completed, company turnover is expected to be about 800 million euros.

Getting down to work

The project focuses on modernising plants and machinery and on providing technical assistance. Construction processes will not be funded by this programme. Local businesses will continue to be used to provide equipment and maintenance.

At the core of the project will be the modernisation and expansion of Sociedade Portuguesa de Ar Líquido facilities. Most of these are found in the central Portuguese town of Estarreja, with a small part in the nearby town of Vila Velha de Ródão.

Industrial facilities in Estarreja are used to produce carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2), both of which are needed to produce Methylene diphenyldiisocyanate (MDI) and aniline (C6H5NH2). A new steam methane reformer will be installed to reduce the use of oil-based naptha.

Investments to reduce the environmental impact of the project will account for 4 % of the total costs. All activities will be monitored to ensure there is no long-term reduction of jobs.

Overall, the modernised Portuguese chemicals company is expected to encourage investment and innovation, and to increase production.

Draft date