Airgas, Inc. has announced plans to build an air separation unit (ASU) in New Carlisle, Indiana, to meet increasing demand for bulk and packaged gases in the Midwest.

The plant will in particular, supply the needs of I/N Tek and I/N Kote, the major steel processing facilities owned by Mittal Steel USA and Nippon Steel.

$quot;We are excited to announce this new facility, which will fit well with the plants operated by our new Airgas Merchant Gases business unit, which will operate this new plant,$quot; said Mike Molinini, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Airgas. The new ASU will employ 15 to 20 employees in production and distribution

Airgas will build the plant on property in the Town of New Carlisle adjacent to I/N Tek and I/N Kote. Airgas, I/N Tek and I/N Kote have signed a long-term agreement for Airgas to supply nitrogen by pipeline, giving the project a key base-load customer. When completed in early 2009, the plant will have the capacity to liquefy at least 350tpd of nitrogen, oxygen, and argon.

$quot;This agreement with Airgas will provide a long-term, economical source of nitrogen for our operations,$quot; said Rick Campoli, controller of I/N Tek and I/N Kote. $quot;We're pleased that it's moving forward.$quot;

$quot;The proposed air separation unit is an exciting opportunity,$quot; said St. Joseph County Commissioner Mark Dobson, R-1st. $quot;The unit represents a substantial capital investment in this operation. That, along with the significant salary levels that will be associated with the high-tech employees who will be hired there, will be of real benefit to the community. That's what the industrial park out at New Carlisle was intended to do. So it's a very exciting opportunity for the community.$quot;