Air separation

The importance of flexibility

Air separation units (ASUs) produce air gases that can be pressurised and supplied directly to customers (on-site market) or liquefied and distributed in bulk tanks or cylinders (merchant market). Liquid cryogenic gases have a particularly high energy density. Flexibility in liquid production is the key to demand side management.

However, ASUs were typically designed for continuous, steady-state production as, until now, there was no need to accommodate frequent load changes. Now this has changed with the new energy landscape.

To meet the growing demand for flexibility in air separation, Linde launched the FlexASU project in collaboration with the company MAN, RWTH Aachen University and the Technical University Munich, and with the support of Kopernikus SynErgie.

FlexASU pilot plant

FlexASU in focus

Thanks to highly flexible processes, process equipment and operation concepts, FlexASU is a robust, novel concept that gives operators the responsiveness they need to avoid peak energy prices by rapidly reducing liquid production when the grid is at its limits. This agility enables operators to adapt to changing market dynamics and capitalise on the rising costs involved in balancing power supply and demand, while also contributing to stabilisation of the energy grid. Ultimately the FlexASU concept supports the use of renewable energy and hence the pathway to a low-carbon or emissions-free society.

Innovation highlights

  • Advanced process concepts that provide extended ranges for flexible, energy-efficient product and load management
  • Advanced equipment design optimised specifically for frequent, fast load changes
  • Next-generation advanced process control system enabling fully automated, fast yet smooth plant responses
  • Cost-efficient operation thanks to minimal operator intervention

Looking ahead

With project funding from the Kopernikus SynErgie initiative, Linde is currently building a test rig to develop a heat exchanger that responds flexibly to load changes. In the near future, the company aims to build a fully fledged FlexASU pilot in order to bring this future-proof, carbon-smart innovation to market as quickly as possible.

More about the Kopernikus Project SynErgie
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