Air Liquide has signed a joint venture contract with Chinese Tianjin Soda Plant, a subsidiary of the Tianjin Bohai Chemical Industry Group.

Under the terms of the contract, Air Liquide and Tianjin Soda will create a joint venture company in Tianjin, in which Air Liquide will hold 55 per cent and Tianjin Soda 45 per cent.

The joint venture company will install two large air separation units (ASUs) with oxygen capacity of 2,000 tons per day each, due for commissioning by the end of 2008, to supply Tianjin Soda and other customers in the Lingang Industry Park. Air Liquide will market the liquid oxygen, nitrogen and argon produced by the new ASUs. The initial JV investment will be in the range of €80m.

Jean-Pierre Duprieu, senior vice-president Asia-Pacific, said: \\$quot;We are very happy to set up this joint venture company with Tianjin Soda. It is another major step in Air Liquide\\$quot;s commitment to develop in the fast growing Tianjin basin. We are proud of partnering with Tianjin Soda for its new project in Lingang and of reinforcing our position in this booming region.\\$quot;

Lai Zhengguo, president of Tianjin Soda added: \\$quot;As we enter into a long-term cooperation with Air Liquide as part of our ambitious new project in Lingang Park, we are confident that this new joint-venture will achieve the highest standards and supply the gases needed by Tianjin Soda plant and other customers in the area.\\$quot;

Tianjin Soda is one of the oldest chemical companies in China with a 90-year history. Bohai Chemical is the chemical conglomerate of Tianjin municipality and a leading player in the local Tianjin economy and in China\\$quot;s chemical industry. From its current position as one of the leading Chinese producers of soda ash and fertilizers, Tianjin Soda is now engaged in a major expansion project for several chemical products in the new Lingang Industry Park in Tanggu District, in the heart of the new development zone of Tianjin-Binhai. This new project requires the supply of large quantities of oxygen and nitrogen gases for the coal gasification units that will produce the syngas needed by the various chemical units.