The China Industrial Gases Industry Association (CIGIA) and members of the association of distributors and manufacturers from Beijing and Dalian, as well as Hangzou, arrived in Japan on February 5th,

They visited Taiyo Nippon Sanso and Mitsubishi Kakoki Kaisha, as well as the Japan Industrial Gas Association, and the hydrogen filling station at Kawasaki. On the 7th they went to visit the 3rd International Hydrogen Fuel Cell Expo that opened that day.

According to Mr Sun Guomin, vice-chairman and secretary general at CIGIA , the Chinese industrial gas business startrd in 1953 when the first ASU, with a capacity of 1,300m3/h was constructed in Dalian. Around early 1988 the industrial gas market started to grow and it is estimated that the growth rate back then was an annual 12 percent.

The number of ASU's in 1988 was 8,021 units, becoming 9,391 in 2005. As the overall scope of the Chinese market and its growth rate cannot be accurately grasped, and only surmised, it is estimated to have expanded to $2.05bn in 1998, $2.5bn in 2000 and $4.6bn in 2006.

There are currently 916 units of large ASU's in China, which are sold by companies such as Bao Steel in Shanghai. Around 2004 a local Chinese producer got hold of ASU production technology for a capacity of 30,000m3/h and that year developed a unit with a capacity of 40,000-52,000 m3/h. Right now they are capable of constructing a unit with a capacity of 60,000m3/h. The leading producers are the Hangzhou Oxygen Group, the Si Chnan Air Separation Group and the Kaifeng Air Separation Group.

In addition to these there are around 20 medium size producers, as well as two overseas firms, Linde and Air Liquide. Amidst this growth in the market, a major change involving restructuring of management stands out. Formerly, Chinese steel producerswhile producing iron also produced gas for their own use, and this was indeed only used by themselves. Right now, however, major steel producers and also chemical producers have been establishing joint ventures in conjunction with overseas producers.

This involves a change in the system of operation and participation in the industrial gas market. When overseas majors enter the Chinese market, we serve as mediators with the local Chinese companies, and reccommend the joint ventures. Major operations we have been involved with include Messer Greisheim, BOC and Praxair. Messer Greisheim is even a member of our organisation. Overseas majors have been involved in the Chinese market for over 20 years with the total investment amounting to $2bn.