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Air Liquide completes new nitrogen plant with smaller carbon footprint

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Air Liquide Industrial U.S. LP today announced that it has completed construction of an APSA on-site nitrogen production plant in Moses Lake, Washington.

The plant will supply high purity (gaseous) nitrogen to a new lightweight carbon fibers production facility operated by SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers LLC, (SGL ACF), a joint venture between SGL Group and the BMW Group.

Air Liquide’s offer includes installation, operation and maintenance of the system allowing the customer to focus on their core business. Air Liquide’s APSA technology allows for cost effective on-site generation of high purity nitrogen using a cryogenic distillation process. On-site production substantially reduces the carbon dioxide (CO2) footprint when compared to conventional liquid supply by eliminating the incremental electricity required to liquefy the gaseous nitrogen and the diesel fuel required to transport the liquid nitrogen from the off-site production plant to the customer’s facility. As a general rule, on-site gaseous nitrogen production from an Air Liquide APSA plant will reduce CO2 emissions by two-thirds compared to off-site production and transport of liquid nitrogen.

According to SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers officials, Air Liquide established the lowest carbon footprint of all competing vendors and met the rigorous “green” criteria included in the processes to produce lightweight carbon fibers and fabrics.

The lightweight carbon fibers manufactured in Moses Lake will be used by the automaker BMW Group in its production of a new generation of lightweight electric automobiles, namely the BMW i3, which is scheduled to launch in 2013. SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers will begin manufacturing lightweight carbon fibers at the Moses Lake plant in Q3 2011. The lightweight carbon fiber manufacturing process requires the continuous use of high purity nitrogen to inert the carbon fiber ovens for maintaining quality and production control.

Michael J. Graff, President and Chief Executive Officer, American Air Liquide Holdings, Inc. commented: “We are pleased to partner with SGL ACF in this emerging market for new-age automotive materials. This joint venture is a substantive example of how innovative technology can drive industry and benefit the environment.”

The SGL ACF plant covers 60 acres of land and will initially operate two carbon fiber lines, each with an annual capacity of 1,500 metric tons. Construction of Air Liquide’s APSA on-site nitrogen production plant was completed and commissioned in mid-March, 2011.