Air Liquide has signed long-term contracts with two steel producers in China and will invest a total of €75m to meet the needs of these new customers.

This investment strengthens the group’s leading position in the Chinese steel market.

China is the largest steel maker worldwide with a production that rose 14% to a record 568 million tonnes in 2009 - nearly half the world’s production.

As China’s focus moves towards better utilisation of its steel-making capacities, oxygen is the key to enhancing productivity.

The first supply contract will provide oxygen and nitrogen to Bohai Steel Group in Tangshan, Hebei Province (near Tianjin) from a large 2,200tpd Air Separation Unit (ASU).

Under the terms of the second contract signed with Jianbang Group in Linfen City, Shanxi Province, Air Liquide will invest in an 800tpd oxygen unit.

Both units will use the latest high-reliability and low-energy technologies from Air Liquide Hangzhou, Air Liquide’s engineering centre in China.

They are scheduled to start up in the second quarter of 2011.

Jean-Marc de Royere, Senior Vice-President Asia-Pacific, a member of the Executive Committee, commented, “We thank Tangshan Bohai Steel Group and Shanxi Jiangbang Group for their trust.”

“Those successes illustrate Air Liquide’s ability to meet customer requirements in China for safety, reliability, low-energy and short construction periods. Emerging economies are a growth driver of Air Liquide.”