In this feature, we examine the US Argon Market in 2008 from both a supply and demand perspective, with careful attention paid to activity in the fourth quarter.
Demand for argon continued to be tight in ’08 but began to slacken in the last half of the year as a result of the downturn in key argon markets, like welding, stainless steel, and electronics.
The supply of argon also declined over the same period due to the slowdown in steel and chemical processing. Argon capacity and production is inherently dependent on oxygen production and much is sourced from O2 production at steel and chemicals plants.
Practically all basic argon production originates as “crude” through fractional distillation of liquefied air concurrent with the production of O2 at air separation units (ASUs). The downturn in chemical production, especially in the Gulf Coast Region, and in steel making in the Mid-West in the second half of ’08, significantly reduced the supply of crude argon from ASUs.
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