The recent earthquake in Sichuan, China was an unparalleled disaster and caused immeasurable devastation and consequences for all involved, with the industrial gas community just a minor segment of those affected.

Industrial gas companies have been affected however, and quite substantially, by having to implement a partial stoppage of the supply of gas or shutting down operations all together.

The Messer Group temporarily halted operations at its developments in the province, while Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (SMIC), which fabricates semiconductors on a commission basis, shut down operation of its plant in Chungdu. Due to this, on-site supply of nitrogen and the supply of specialty gas by Taiyo Nissan was still at a standstill as of 19th May.

Semiconductor Fab #2 at Chungdu ceased operations when the earthquake occurred on 12th May, though since then, the assembly plant has started operations again after undergoing inspection. The preprocessing plant, however, which requires a precision production method, remained shut down.

According to a report on the 19th, the preprocessing plant was undergoing trials prior to restarting operations. As one detector producer declared, regarding the status of the damage, “I have heard that pipes ruptured and gas leaked out.”

It is anticipated that the shutdown will continue for a protracted period.

The plant was completed in 2006 and is the 11th SMIC semiconductor preprocessing plant in China, producing over 10,000 eight inch semiconductors per month. Linde (formerly BOC) handles the supply of industrial gases, providing on-site nitrogen, while Taiyo Nippon Sanso handles the specialty gas. Air Products is also involved in supplying gas.

According to Taiyo Nippon Sanso Specialty Gas, which supplies the specialty resource gas, “Although we don’t have any details regarding the actual situation, right now supply of gas to SMIC has stopped.”

In contrast, Leon Chang, General Manager of Air Products China stated, “We have an on-site plant there. Both our employees and assets were unharmed.” Although not touching upon the supply of specialty gas to SMIC, he did go on to say, “There was no major effect on our business.”

The China Industrial Gases Industry Association (CIGIA) summarised the situation with the statement, “Although the damage from the earthquake spans a very wide area, there will not be any major effect on the supply of gas. There was some stoppage of industrial gas production, but once the earthquakes are over, production will resume immediately. There are no gas companies located at the epicentre of the earthquake. Production plants in the vicinity were not greatly affected.”

In addition, ProMOS Technologies, a Taiwanese semiconductor producer which has operations in Chongqing, suffered damage while delivering a facility but there seems not to have been any effects from this such as gas leakage.