With roots dating back to the seventies, NOVAIR started its activities in onsite gas production and compression as a privately-owned company – the enterprise of young graduate Bernard Zenou.
The aim was to offer custom-made compressed air and gas and vacuum solutions for both industrial and medical applications, from which Novair started with the retail of air compressors and vacuum pumps and rapidly grew into a package solutions designer. With a regularly growing number of projects for healthcare facilities, the company became a strong specialist in medical gases.
In the decades since, the company has grown to supply innovative gas solutions to almost 110 countries worldwide from its head office and factory in France, located just near Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, and from its Italian branch Noxerior acquired two years ago. With such a diverse range of industries served and products provided, NOVAIR Groupe is organised into two different sectors, divided between its industrial and medical divisions.
The industrial division is involved in the engineering and supply of oxygen and nitrogen PSA (pressure swing adsorption) complete plants including feed air units and high pressure cylinder filling systems, all manufactured by the group. and covering all types of industrial applications. Meanwhile NOVAIR’s medical division focuses on the design and manufacture of medical gas production technologies for clinics and hospitals, from PSA medical oxygen generators and medical vacuum systems to various medical gas piping equipment and monitoring and distribution devices. All of which is provided through a global network of distributors and affiliates.
Another significant company in the non-cryogenic plant industry is AirSep Corporation – a Chart Industries company. Since 1987, AirSep has been showcasing its PSA/VPSA (vacuum pressure swing adsorption) oxygen technology through partnership with industry leaders such as XYLEM, Suez, Pepsico, Dow Corning and others. The company is a unique success story based in Buffalo, New York, and founded on the premise of providing innovative onsite oxygen sources to many applications including hospitals, wastewater treatment, municipal water treatment/ozone, pulp and paper, steel mills, gold mines, fish farming and many other markets where oxygen is needed.
More than 30 years later, AirSep is still synonymous with oxygen generation and boasts an expansive distribution network in over 100 countries and products with a range of capacities from 10 SCFH to 120,000 SCFH. It recently introduced a range of membrane and PSA nitrogen systems to its portfolio.
Despite their different origins, both companies are seeing similar trends in the non-cryogenic plant industry, with the switch to onsite gas generation increasingly coming out on top.
“The reliability and cost saving granted by onsite gas generation systems is influencing a very positive trend for non-cryogenic technologies,” commented Laura Ammiraglia, Sales & Marketing Manager at NOXERIOR. “What we are also seeing at NOVAIR is an expectation from markets for customised solutions.” adds Valérie Bokobza, the NOVAIR Group’s Marketing and CRM Director.
“If we are capable to come up with the right innovative, customised solutions, there is really room for growth and for a greater presence of onsite solutions in the market.”
NOVAIR points to the inherent autonomy and flexibility of onsite gas generation as a further advantage, across a range of industries. “With an onsite solution you get autonomy – you produce your own gas on-demand and you are eco-friendly,” Bokobza explained. “No trucks are required to deliver liquid gas or cylinders, there is continuous and uninterrupted access to the product, and that’s something customers are more and more sensitive to.”
“It’s crucial for industrials to have complete and full access to the gas required, so it’s very valuable to have an onsite supply. There are also less administrative problems because you don’t have to order the oxygen or nitrogen. These are all advantages of producing onsite.”
Agreeing, Lawrence Hughes, VP and GM for AirSep Corporation, said, “Numerous industries and municipalities are switching to onsite gas generation and the independence they realise from the yearly price increases from major cryogenic gas companies.”
Areas of major growth
Geographical areas that are subject to logistical issues, and applications which require high purity gases at low cost, are two areas that NOVAIR identifies as windows of major growth in the future.
“In both, we see growth in areas where there is an expectation of autonomy and cost saving,” Bokobza told gasworld. “We are going a little further and are really responding with specific packages for our customers.” This brings us to another area of growth potential for non-cryogenic plants – customised solutions, “We really study our customer needs and are capable of creating customised solutions for a specific application. An example of this is what we did recently with our Laserpack solution, custom made for the laser-cutting industry.”
At the end of last year, NOVAIR invested in R&D to design the Nitroswing Laserpack, a new high-pressure, nitrogen production unit. Nitrogen gas is widely used in laser-cutting and industrials have always relied on traditional external supplies, whether it is liquid bulk or high-pressure gas cylinders. However, the Laserpack was designed in collaboration with end-users who shared with NOVAIR their needs, resulting in an onsite solution that goes beyond the generator alone. With an integrated package capable to supply nitrogen to laser cutting machines at all times, end-users from the metal industry now have an innovative alternative gas supply solution upon which they can depend.
“Because the company combines engineers with a strong knowledge of the technology, and marketers focused on customers’ needs and expectations, we are not only manufacturing generators, we are manufacturing complete solutions,” Bokobza concluded.
From its point of view, AirSep said it saw medical, mining and environmental applications as the distinct areas of major growth in the future for the non-cryogenic plants industry.