BOC will build a new air separation unit in south central Wisconsin, US, to strengthen service to Midwestern customers.

The company is investing for growth where the market conditions are right.

The plant's exact location is subject to successful negotiations with the state of Wisconsin and other local approval agencies. The plant will produce over 700 tons a day of liquid oxygen and nitrogen. The gases will be trucked to hospitals, food processors, metals and chemicals manufacturers in Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa.

Construction is expected to begin during the summer of 2006, with production starting at the end of 2007.

"BOC has seen demand in the Midwest increase steadily over the last few years, driven mostly by food processing, combustion and petrochemical applications. We've seen excellent growth in Wisconsin and the greater Chicago area and we are making this investment in order to improve service to our customers," said Trevor Burt, president of PGS North America, the BOC business making this investment.

"One location BOC is considering is in the greater Beloit area, which is located near many of our major customers in Wisconsin and the Chicago area, has the zoning and power infrastructure we need and gives us access to many of the region's major highways," Burt said.

BOC will employ between 35 to 40 people at the plant, most of whom will be truck drivers.

The Wisconsin plant, BOC's first in the state, is the second part of an effort to streamline the company's Midwest operations. It replaces an older Illinois plant that was shut several years ago. This new plant is significantly more energy efficient and has 40 per cent greater capacity.

Besides increasing production capacity, the new location enables BOC to optimise its distribution patterns. Drivers will have to cover less distance to serve customers in Wisconsin and Chicago and BOC's existing plants in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio will be able to free up production to support customers located closer to them.

"This plant will strengthen our supply capability throughout the entire Midwest and will enable BOC to help customers meet their businesses' changing and growing demands," Burt concluded.

Since 2004, BOC has announced plans to invest more than $250m in the US, including three new hydrogen plants.