After the recent announcement of the Air Liquide Severstal joint venture to launch the world’s largest ASU in Russia, gasworld decided to follow up this news with an exclusive chat with the forces behind the project.

Situated at the Cherepovets steel complex in the Vologda region between Moscow and St Petersburg, the world’s biggest oxygen production unit will help Russian steel giant Severstal improve its energy efficiency while also expanding Air Liquide’s presence in Eastern Europe.

With a daily production capacity of 3,000 tonnes of oxygen it is the biggest gas unit in Russia and the largest air separation unit in the world dedicated to the steel industry. Its priority will be to supply the Severstal steel mill with high purity oxygen in addition to nitrogen and argon, while also providing liquid oxygen, nitrogen and argon to the Russian industrial market.

Representatives of Air Liquide and Severstal were present at the presentation launch of the project in early September. Anatoliy Kruchinin, general director of the Cherepovets steel complex Severstal, said, “The start-up of this new air separation unit is a major stage in the development of our large-scale investment programme.”

“It will allow us to increase our production of steel on this site to 9.5 million tonnes. We are very satisfied with our partnership with Air Liquide for the construction of a new industrial production unit and we intend to continue it within the framework of our joint venture Air Liquide Severstal,” Kruchinin continued.

Equipped with Air Liquide technology allowing reduced energy consumption, the production unit will contribute to the fight against global warming by saving up to 50,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year – the equivalent of the total CO2 emissions of a town of roughly 10,000 inhabitants. Illustrating its involvement and contribution towards a sustainable environment, Air Liquide Severstal symbolically planted 100 trees at the Cherepovets site on the day of the launch.

Klaus Schmieder, senior executive vice president of the Air Liquide Group, was present at the launch ceremony and commented, “We are very happy and very proud of our partnership with Severstal, one of the world leaders in steel production. The commissioning of the Air Liquide Severstal production unit allows us to firmly anchor our position in Russia and to accompany an industrial sector that is in full expansion, into the future. In accordance with our development strategy in expanding areas showing particular potential, we intend to increase our investment in Russia in the years to come.”

Speaking to gasworld at the event, director of Air Liquide in Russia Claude Eller said, “The market of industrial gases in Russia is young. But the rates of its development impress nevertheless. And the fact that the domestic producer of cryogenic equipment, JSC Cryogenmash, entered into the market of supplying with technical gases, shows the acceptance by the Russian users to the method of supplying gases by on-site systems.”

Air Liquide Russia has been based in Moscow since 1989 and was primarily concerned with the sale of industrial gas production equipment in Russia and the Ukraine, with the ambition of the company at present to establish itself throughout the Russian territory. Air Liquide holds a 75% stake in the Air Liquide Severstal joint venture created in 2005.

The remaining 25% stake in the venture belongs to Severstal, an international steel producer with a listing on the Russian Trading System and the London Stock Exchange. Recently putting in place corporate government systems which match international standards, Severstal owns mining assets in Russia and in 2006 produced 17.6 million tonnes of steel, with revenues of $12.4bn.