Airgas, Inc. has signed a long-term supply contract to build an air separation unit (ASU) in Clarksville, Tennessee in the US, to supply Hemlock Semiconductor, L.L.C.

The new ASU will also be capable of meeting the increasing demand for merchant gases in the region.

Hemlock Semiconductor, a leading provider of polycrystalline silicon used in manufacturing semiconductors and solar cells, is majority owned by Dow Corning Corporation.

Airgas has signed a contract to supply nitrogen to Hemlock Semiconductor's $1.2bn polysilicon manufacturing facility when completed in 2012. Airgas will build the ASU on Hemlock Semiconductor's Clarksville property located in Northeast Montgomery County, with the plant producing nitrogen and other atmospheric gases for Hemlock and the merchant market in the region.

“We look forward to serving Hemlock Semiconductor's needs with this new state-of-the-art production facility,” said Mike Molinini, Airgas Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.

“The solar industry is growing rapidly, and Airgas is proud to help Hemlock Semiconductor meet the needs of this innovative market.”

“Our contract with Airgas will provide a long-term, economical and reliable source of nitrogen for our Clarksville facility,” offered Stuart Bolland, Americas Direct Procurement Manager for Dow Corning.

The new Clarksville ASU will contribute to the growing Airgas merchant gas business.

“We will operate the new plant within our Airgas Merchant Gases business unit, which has the proven expertise to run the production plant,” Molinini added.

Airgas Merchant Gases, LLC, operates Airgas' network of air separation plants, and also manages procurement and supplier relationships in addition to distribution of atmospheric gases.