Over three months have now passed since the earthquake that devastated Japan. In various ways, the industrial field has started out on the road to recovery. Signs of a change have also appeared in the gas market, The Gas Review (TGR) reports.

Production of optical fibre in the region is currently in full operation. In the Tohoku and Kanto areas, hit by the earthquake and tsunami, the optical fibre so important for the communications network was seriously affected and disrupted. Restoring the information and telecommunications networks based on optical fibre is seen as a significant priority and the major optical fibre producers have made arrangements for increased production.

In terms of gases, hydrogen, helium, oxygen and nitrogen are used in the optical fibre industry; a spike in optical fibre production could potentially correlate with an increase in usage of these gases.

Further still, the actual measures taken to restore infrastructure and reinforce this infrastructure in the wake of the earthquake is driving gas demand too, as had been largely expected. The demand for thick plate steel and all types of steel material, linked to strengthening bridge supports and supplementing the strength of buildings, is said to be thriving. With oxygen used heavily in the steel industry, this is also of significance.

While the supply of oxygen for medical use was partly disrupted by the earthquake, with tanks at hospitals damaged and trucked-in supply affected by damaged road networks, this has since opened up an avenue in cylinder demand. TGR notes that there has been an increase in orders for small cylinders for oxygen for medical use.

In addition, the production of semiconductors and LCDS has recovered, with the exception of the Hitachi area, and the construction equipment and vehicle manufacturing markets are also moving along well.

Shortages of certain gases are highlighted as concerns, which is a situation of particular interest given the strain currently placed on power and electricity supply, though the overall message is one of recovery and cautious optimism.