Saudi Aramco has awarded France’s Air Liquide the long-term contract to supply hydrogen to the $9bn-plus Yanbu refinery project in Saudi Arabia.

The scope of the contract will see Air Liquide invest $450m in the construction of two global-scale hydrogen production units with total production capacity of 262 million standard cubic feet per day.

“The outsourcing of the hydrogen needs of such a big refinery is a first in the Middle East and representative of a long term trend in this zone,” Pierre Dufour, senior executive vice-president of the Air Liquide Group said in a statement.

The exact time-frame of the agreement was not disclosed, but the contract will start when construction of the refinery is completed in 2014.

The Yanbu refinery will process up to 400,000 barrels a day (b/d) of crude oil, including viscous ‘heavy’ oil, which is both hard to separate into saleable gasoline streams and has high sulphur content.

MEED reported in July that Aramco decided to develop the project on its own after the US’ ConocoPhillips had walked away earlier in the year (MEED 22:7:10).

The Red Sea Refining Company has been formed by Aramco to run the facility.