Argon – Tight supply as steel output drives up demand


2006 has been another successful year for the gas industry as a whole with both volumes and prices rising in all regions around the world. In some regions and countries, argon demand has virtually outstripped supply “ driven by much higher steel output. This has led to companies looking at how to source additional volumes of the gas.

Argon makes up 0.934 per cent of the air we breathe. It is recovered from the oxygen output of modern ASUs, of which it constitutes approximately four per cent.

Lack of capacity
According to industry analysts, there is a total of 1.2 million tpd of oxygen production installed worldwide. The worldwide argon production, taken to be 1.5% of oxygen capacity, is therefore about 18,500 tpd. However, because some ASUs are older than 25 years and may not have had argon columns installed, actual production capacity is below the worldwide estimate. It is costly to retro fit them, and the size of the plant and market determine whether a gas company does this.

In addition, about half of the worldwide oxygen capacity is owned by the end users, who may not require argon recovery.

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