A group of chemical companies is awaiting a decision by the Algerian government, as to whether it intends to press forward the construction of the country's second helium plant. The production capacity of the $100-million facility to be built in Skikda, will reach 600 million cubic feet a year, reported the Algérie Presse Service, APS.
According to APS, among the companies showing interest in the venture are BOC Gases of the United Kingdom, Air Liquide of France and Air Products and Chemicals of the United States. The foreign firms would be required to cooperate with Sonatrach, Algeria’s state-owned oil company.
Algeria's existing helium factory, Helios, is a joint venture between state energy company Sonatrach, Air Liquide and Air Products & Chemicals. It is located at Arzew, and draws helium from the liquid natural gas plant in the area.
According to the Algerian government’s original plan, a helium plant at Skikda should become operational in 2003. However, assuming that the Algerian government gives the project a green light, it will come on-line in 2004, at the earliest.
Sonatrach had begun planning for the Skikda plant in 1996, but changes in the company's structure delayed the project. Sonatrach has the option of forming a joint venture with a consortium of several companies, or of working with one partner only.
Algeria is one of only four countries where helium is known to be found in the form of natural gas. — (Albawaba-MEBG)
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