Polargas, a 100% Air Liquide subsidiary in Finland, has signed a new 15-year agreement for the supply of oxygen, nitrogen and argon to the number one Finnish carbon steel producer Ruukki (Rautaruukki Corporation), in Raahe.

The agreement prolongs the output of the four existing air separation units (ASUs) and also provides for the installation of a new ASU with a capacity of 860 tonnes per day of oxygen. The overall investment amounts to €30 million and will be Air Liquide’s most important investment in Finland. The new ASU, to be designed and manufactured by Air Liquide engineering division, will start operation in third quarter 2007 to fulfill the increasing oxygen demand of Ruukki’s steel plant in Raahe.

Klaus Schmieder, member of the management board of Air Liquide, said: “This new agreement demonstrates the excellent partnership between Ruukki and Polargas, which started with the first ASU investment of Polargas in Raahe in 1988.

“We are pleased to help our customers to improve the efficiency of their processes while contributing to sustainable development, which is the heart of our strategy. This investment reinforces our positions in northern countries and is a clear statement of our commitment for further developments in the Finnish market.”

In Europe, Finland has a strong position in the science and technology sector, especially with its leading innovation programs. The Finnish metal processing sector is known for its efficient energy and raw material utilization, as well as for its leading position in various processes, especially protection of the environment.

The steel market, driven by the development of products with high added value, needs high quantities of oxygen. Injected in furnaces to produce steel, oxygen increases productivity, reduces energy consumption while limiting greenhouse gas and NOX emissions.

Rautaruukki supplies metal-based components, systems and turnkey offers to the construction and mechanical engineering industries. It has operations in 23 countries and employs 12,000 people. Net sales in 2004 totaled €3.6 billion. The company is quoted on the Helsinki Stock Exchange (Rautaruukki Corporation: RTRKS).

Polargas, a 100% Air Liquide subsidiary, employs 24 people in Finland and is number two in the Finnish gas market, with a turnover of €41 million in 2004. Its head office is located in Oulu, in the northern part of the country and its main customers are active in steel and chemical production.