For the first time since establishing its Port Manatee facility, Air Products transported a finished liquified natural gas heat exchanger to the port Friday for shipment to Louisiana.
The exchanger, which transforms natural gas from the gaseous state to liquid for easier transport, took approximately two years to construct by the team at Air Products in Manatee County. A sea of Air Products employees in blue shirts sat in the audience as Air Products LNG division executives spoke of the team’s accomplishment.
“I am proud to say that no one in the world builds coil-wound heat exchangers as large as we do,” said Sandy McLauchlin, general manager of LNG and CryoMachinery Engineering and Manufacturing at Air Products. “The largest LNG plants in the world use our technology. This facility will allow us to maintain our leadership position.”
LNG heat exchangers can be more than 15 feet in diameter and 180 feet long, or two-thirds the size of a football field, according to an Air Products release. Finished units can weigh as much as 500 tons.
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Our process technology and the LNG heat exchanger are the heart of an LNG plant. Our technology operates at some of the most remote locations around the world where vast fields of natural gas are located and it is our liquefaction process that unlocks this stranded natural resource and thus makes it economical to be shipped around the world for energy use.
Jim Soloman, Air Products LNG director
Air Products has shipped 116 LNG heat exchangers to 17 countries, the release said. The exchanger transported to Port Manatee on Friday was the first unit produced at the Manatee County facility and is also the first Air Products shipment to a Gulf Coast location.
All Manatee County Commissioners were present on Friday except Larry Bustle and Charles Smith. Betsy Benac, at-large commissioner and chair of the Manatee County Port Authority, spoke to the relationship between Air Products’ success and the proximity of Port Manatee.
Typical LNG heat exchangers can be as large as more than 15 meet in diameter and 180 feet long, or about two-thirds of the size of a football field. Source: Air Products press release
“Both Air Products and Port Manatee benefit from their strong collaboration,” Benac said. “Air Products has proven to be a huge asset to Manatee County in providing high-paying jobs and other economic benefits.”
Benac, District 5 Commissioner Vanessa Baugh and Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. President and CEO Sharon Hillstrom lauded Air Products for its job creation in Manatee County.
Air Products is one of 67 companies that have entered into economic development incentive agreements with Manatee County since the program began in 2009. Air Products spokesman Art George said the company met all previous job goals to receive incentive dollars, but said in July, “We will not meet the final target number this year.”
The final goal in the incentive agreement was 200 jobs. The maximum amount Air Products could have received, according to documents from the Manatee County Economic Development Program, was $375,000.
The company had to lay off an estimated 30 full-time employees in Manatee County in July and had a similar round of layoffs at the company’s Wilkes-Barre, Pa., facility. The Manatee County Air Products plant now employs approximately 140 people.
“We’re disappointed we needed to take this action, but there’s been a drop in worldwide orders for the LNG equipment we manufacture there,” George told the Herald in July.
George is confident the company’s Manatee County facility will hire again, but he could not specify when.
Air Products LNG director Jim Soloman displayed confidence in demand for the company’s products on Friday despite the layoffs earlier in the summer.
“As the world’s energy needs continue to increase, demand for cleaner energy is at the forefront and natural gas is the cleanest of all the fossil fuels,” Soloman said. “In order to achieve the greatest economies of scale, even larger capacity LNG heat exchangers for LNG plants are being required by our customers.”