The specialty gas market in the North Pacific Rim, including exports, is moving along well according to The Gas Review (TGR).

In addition to the thriving production of semiconductors in Taiwan and Korea, there are also new fabrication lines going into operation in China. While semiconductor ‘fabs’ in Japan are cutting back, existing fabrication lines have been doing well and as a result, the demand for specialty gas has been on the path to recovery.

Japan remains the world’s largest production area for specialty gas in terms of quality and quantity, says TGR.

In Korea, Taiwan and China, specialty gases used in large quantities (such as ammonia and nitrogen trifluoride and silane) are increasingly tending to be produced locally/domestically. In contrast to this, reliance on Japan is increasing for carbon hydride type gas such as carbon tetrafluoride, as well as chlorine and hydrogen chloride. In other words, TGR, notes, contradictory trends are in evidence.

High purity ammonia (NH3), used for the LED of composite gallium nitride-based semiconductors and growing in use for blue and white LED’s, is growing in consumption in China. The global market for NH3 in 2013 amounted to around 26,000 tonnes, with China estimated to consume around 40% of this, followed by Taiwan (30% approx.), Korea (20% approx.) and Japan (under 10%).

In terms of production, while China is ‘being pulled along’ by blue and white LEDs and liquid crystals (LCs), the requirement for high quality NH3 for use in LCD panels means that only product manufactured in Japan, Korea and Taiwan can be used for the time being.

Another specialty gas, nitrogen triflouride (NF3), is also in the spotlight. The Asian market accounts for over 80% of the global NF3 market, but with the supply-demand balance of late resulting in more product than demand, the price of NF3 has weakened. In China, however, with the ratio of LCD TV production held by China expected to double in the future, TGR notes that it is ‘unavoidable that the trend toward local production for local consumption of NF3 will increase’.

Where silane is concerned, the core element of the CVD material in semiconductor manufacture, this is a market in growth mode in China.

While the advent of market for thin film silicon solar cells was meant to drive silane consumption and production, in the case of one plant in particular its solar cells were ‘beaten out in the competition with cheap products from China’ and this has led to a number of companies withdrawing from producing and supplying silane. Taiyo Nippon Sanso and Air Products were two such companies, while OCI Materials – one of the largest producers in the world – has ceased production since an outbreak of fire at its facility in August 2013. It is in China that the growth in silane production is anticipated.