Air Water (AWI) and Uno Sanso\\$quot;s joint venture Mikuni Ekisan has started its business operations this month.

The new ASU liquid oxygen/nitrogen co-production plant has been built at Mikuni Ekisan\\$quot;s facility in Mikuni-cho, Fukui Prefecture.

AWI said: 'Uno Sanso and AWI established Mikuni Ekisan in March 2005 for the purpose of further stabilizing supplies of industrial and medical gases in the Hokuriku region.

'The start of production at Mikuni Ekisan will enable AWI to meet regional demand in the Hokuriku region more flexibly as well as bringing greater stability and safety to the company\\$quot;s supplies in that region.

'For Uno Sanso, the leading supplier of industrial gases in Fukui Prefecture, the replacement of its old plant with the new Air Water ASU plant will bring improved energy efficiencies that will realize significant reductions both in operating costs and in environment loading.'

The new plant will also allow AWI to reduce its long-distance gas deliveries from Niigata and the Kinki area, thereby allowing reductions in costs and improved logistic efficiencies as well as resulting in further reductions in environmental loading.