Air Liquide has recently signed a new 15 year contract with its customer Cumerio Med JSC, to supply oxygen to its copper smelting facility at Pirdop, 80km east of Sofia, Bulgaria.

Air Liquide will install and operate a new air separation unit (ASU) for the production of oxygen, to be commissioned in September. This extension, together with the existing air separation units, will increase the total installed capacity at the Cumerio site to over 1,200 tonnes per day of oxygen, making it one of the largest in this country.

The company has also signed a new contract with Stomana, the Bulgarian subsidiary of the Greek Sidenor Group with whom Air Liquide has developed a long-term relationship. Under the terms of this new contract, Air Liquide will supply oxygen, nitrogen and argon necessary for steel production, with a new ASU to be commissioned end of 2007 in Pernik, close to Sofia. This ASU will also have liquid gases production capabilities to sustain Air Liquide\\$quot;s development in the industrial customer business sector.

The new installations, which represent a total investment of €25m, allow Air Liquide to reinforce its presence in Bulgaria. These developments according to the company follow another important contract signed with Saint-Gobain in Romania last year, and position Air Liquide as a key player in South Eastern Europe.

Klaus Schmieder, Senior Executive Vice-President, said: "We are pleased to expand our very good relationship with Cumerio and to develop a new partnership with Stomana. These new investments provide an excellent base for the future development of our activities in Bulgaria, where the Group has been present since 1999. They strengthen our positions in this promising region, and illustrate our growth strategy to develop our presence in emerging economies."