Higher product costs have led to Airgas increasing prices on argon products by 10 to 20 per cent.

The price increases for packaged and bulk argon products came into effect for most customers from July 1 or in some cases, as customer contracts or product supply agreements permitted.

Along with higher product costs, the company also blames tightening argon supply across the United States and continued high demand for argon among Airgas' customer base.

Tom Thoman, vice president, gases for Airgas, said: \\$quot;Most argon production is tied directly to air separation units built to produce pipeline oxygen for steel and chemical customers. In recent months, as demand for steel has softened, gas producers report a sharp reduction in oxygen demand from their steel customers.

\\$quot;This has forced gas producers to either curtail argon production or operate plants for argon only, which is a high-cost operating model, and implement price increases.\\$quot;

Airgas is also incurring higher distribution costs as it transports products greater distances to meet the demands of its customers.

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