BOC has recently opened the largest commercial helium facility in China, a distribution centre located in Suzhou.

BOC opened the distribution centre, which will supply gaseous and liquid helium to customers throughout China, earlier this month. The facility is located in one of China\\$quot;s main industrial parks, the China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) in Jiangsu province.

"The Suzhou investment is the latest in a series of commitments that BOC has made to strengthen our position in the rapidly growing Chinese market. BOC plans to continue to invest in our Chinese infrastructure in an effort to provide the highest level of service to Chinese helium customers," said Phil Kornbluth, vice president, global helium, BOC.

China is one of BOC\\$quot;s fastest growing helium markets. Demand has grown at the rate of 16 per cent during the last five years, driven by scientific and medical applications, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), as well as high-tech applications including optical fiber and semiconductor manufacturing.

Peter Lu, general manager for Industrial and Special Products North Asia, the business making this investment, said: "BOC supplies significant quantities of helium to MRI manufacturers and most of the new NMR original equipment manufacturers in China. This new plant will help BOC improve its ability to provide efficient and safe service to customers and satisfy their growing demand for helium. It is a milestone for BOC\\$quot;s China helium business and will also contribute to the development of Suzhou industry."

BOC employs 18 people at the facility, including drivers, plant workers and managers.

Liquid helium is shipped to Shanghai in specially insulated containers from helium sources in the US. From there, trucks haul the containers to Suzhou, where it is repackaged for delivery to end customers, most of whom are located in eastern China.