As you most likely are aware, the rare gases krypton, xenon, and neon are by-products of very large air separation plants (ASU). These ASU’s are almost all attached to steel mills. With this said, adding capacity quickly is not realistic. It takes 1-3 years to add capacity and can only be added to plants that process 1,500 tons of air or more in a day.
Before the invasion of Ukraine, all three rare gases were seeing a demand that was just beginning to approach the level of global production. This supply and demand tightening caused prices to begin to increase in 2021. In September, China closed two of its largest steel mills, which also produce all three rare gases.
This action was implemented to reduce pollution for the Olympics and reduce the need for coke and iron ore from Australia, with whom there existed a dispute. These closures reduced the global rare gas supply by about 10%. This action during the fall of 2021, began to cause a shortage of all three gases as demand became greater than supply.
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