Air Liquide has revealed that the development of its business in the emerging Middle East is accelerating, as investments totalling around $200m are coming to fruition.

Middle Eastern countries have double digit rates of GDP growth, leading to growth in the industrial gas market exceeding plus-20% per year. Industrial markets in the zone, such as petrochemicals, chemicals, metals and food, require increasing quantities of industrial gases.

Air Liquide has a number of business investments in the region and announced that its close to $200m of interest in the region is developing as hoped.

Pierre Dufour, Senior Executive Vice-President of the Air Liquide Group, responsible for the Middle East zone, declared, “We are delighted that so many projects are coming to fruition in the Middle East, which enable us to be present in most of the markets in this zone.”

“The group is keen to meet the growing needs of its customers, in particular in the main industrial basins. These investments are carried by the trend for outsourcing industrial gas needs and are in line with group growth strategy, which is to invest over one billion dollars in the Middle East in the coming five years.”

Kuwait and Qatar
Shuaiba Oxygen, Air Liquide’s subsidiary in Kuwait (a partnership with Kuwait Cryo) has supplied the new petrochemicals plant Equate with oxygen, nitrogen and compressed air since the start of July.

The new air separation unit (ASU) near Kuwait City has production capacity of 1,500 tonnes of oxygen per day.

Meanwhile in Qatar, the group’s GASAL subsidiary, a partnership with Qatar Petroleum and QIMCO, has just commissioned two new ASU’s.

The Mesaieed unit, 40km south of Doha, was commissioned last April and supplies leading Middle East steel producer Qatar Steel Company (QASCO), with oxygen and nitrogen. The unit also supplies five other customers in the industrial basin, through GASAL’s pipeline system.

The second ASU, commissioned early July in the industrial basin of Ras Laffan, supplies nitrogen to the Ras Laffan Olefins Company (RLOC), a subsidiary of Qatar Petroleum, Chevron-Phillips and the Total group.

Egypt and Oman
Air Liquide Egypt has just commissioned a new carbon dioxide production unit in Aboukir to serve the food and soft drinks markets, currently undergoing strong development. The group has been present in Egypt since 2002 but the development is seen as a new step in its progression in the region, meeting the growing gas needs of varying industrial customers.

Air Liquide Sohar Industrial Gases (ALSIG), the company’s subsidiary in the Sultanate of Oman, is set to begin supply of nitrogen to AOL (Oman Aromatics) in October 2008, as a new ASU located in the port of Sohar doubles its current production capacity in the Sultanate.

Expanding merchant sales
As well as its many business interests in the region ‘coming to fruition’, Air Liquide has also noted that its merchant sales in a number of countries were set for an increase – in line with recent activity.

The argon production from Shuaiba Oxygen, the acquisition of India’s Pure Helium, and the liquid sourcing available from new projects provides ALMENA (the company’s Merchant subsidiary in the region) with rapidly expanding industrial merchant sales in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and other countries throughout the Gulf accordingly. This is particularly evident in the welding and construction markets.