How did we get here? – The beginnings of industrial gases


There’s a famous bar in New York City called McSorley’s Old Ale House. It’s been in lower Manhattan for a very long time.

“We were here before you were born,” says the window, in very small print, and you might even miss it on the way in. Many of us have been in this business for a long time, but the purification and commercial demand for industrial gases goes back further, also before we were born.

Most of the major industrial gas companies have their roots in the late 19th century, when the earlier discovery and identification of the elemental gases created an opportunity for commercial development. The company names we know well… Air Liquide, Linde, Airco-BOC, Union Carbide-Praxair and even Messer and AGA can trace their roots back to one of four processes: the liquefaction and distillation of air; the electrolysis of water creating hydrogen and oxygen; the production of calcium carbide to produce acetylene for portable lighting, and a few short years later, the ability to mix and ignite oxygen and acetylene safely, producing a flame temperature hot enough to cut steel.

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