“This past year has been anything but normal and it is a worthwhile exercise to perform some thorough analysis of what has been going on and what the near future is going to or might look like.”
Those were the words of Eduardo Gil Elejoste, President of Nippon Gases Europe (NGE). For Gil, that analysis comes as the company closes its fiscal year and prepares a number of reports and comparisons, having spoken exclusively to gasworld soon after NGE had finalised its financial year on 31st March.
For gasworld and its upcoming May edition focusing on the air gases business, that means a perfectly timed opportunity to explore ‘the backbone’ of both the industrial gases business and of NGE itself.
‘Vital’ air gases
NGE operates in 13 countries across Europe, with 3,000 employees – of which 27% and growing are women – and around 150,000 customers. Its medical gases and services ultimately care for around 400,000 patients in their homes.
All of which calls for a robust network of plants and production and distribution facilities. NGE operates 12 carbon dioxide (CO2) plants, seven CO2 terminals, 40 packaged gas filling stations (with close to three million cylinders), no less than 19 dry ice plants, five specialty gas laboratories, six hydrogen plants, 14 pipelines and over 600 trucks and three CO2 ships.
When it comes to the business of air gases, NGE operates 27 air separation units (ASUs) across Europe and Gil explained how it is the products of these mega facilities that are at the heart of the company today.
“Air Gases are the backbone of the industrial gases business, so, when we say that the industrial gases business in Europe is a more or less a €18bn business, we are saying that the vast majority of those revenues come from air gases,” he enthused.
“This is also the case in Nippon Gases. Industrial gases are vital for industries to be able to produce whatever they produce. Industrial gases ‘have to be there’ when they are needed, and they are needed every day. That´s why the leitmotiv of our industry is ‘uninterrupted supply of high quality products’ no matter what.”
Anyone familiar with the European markets will know that the hubs or hot spots for this demand are often where the robust economies are to be found – in Germany and France, for example. Gil affirmed there are relatively little surprises to be found in Europe in this regard, “The big industrial gas demand hubs are there where you find large industries and large populations in developed countries, as you correctly might expect. Those countries or territories where the industrial production is a significant percentage of the total GDP.”
He describes Europe as a big winner in the decarbonisation stakes and also has a call to action when it comes to the migration of key materials production away from the region and the production/supply chain vulnerability that this has created in recent years – not least during the last 12 months of the pandemic.
“…let me repeat, the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that having too much essential production far away from Europe also has its downsides,” he says.
Full interview coming soon
Look out for the full interview with Nippon Gases Europe in the May edition of gasworld magazine and available online for subscribers in early May.
Read more about Gil’s call to action in Europe and why; about the reasons he sees this mature market re-emerging armed with impetus and funding; and where the opportunities are for the air gases industry.