Mr Amer Al-Huneidi, Chairman of the Huneidi Group


$quot;You join us here in Kuwait at a very exciting time,$quot; Amer Huneidi began. $quot;The Middle East economy is very buoyant due to the high oil prices and there is a lot of project activity throughout the Arabian Peninsular which is driving demand for industrial gases. Our group of companies are benefiting from this and I am pleased to announce that we have recorded growth over the past 3 years – averaging 20 percent per annum. We are in the middle of a major re-structuring which I would like to discuss and this hopefully will lead to further rapid growth over the next 5 years,$quot; he stated confidently.

How did the Huneidi Group begin?
The Hunedi family’s interest in industrial gases began when Mr Huneidi’s father Salim left Palestine in 1948 following the conflict in the area.
$quot;He came to Kuwait and was very interested in the fledgling industry here,$quot; said Mr Huneidi. $quot;He won a construction contract and realised that he needed supplies of oxygen – but there were none readily available. There was one company that owned a small oxygen plant – the Kuwait Oil Company.$quot;
KOC had surplus oxygen, but there was a waiting list, so Salim contacted the MD of KOC, a British expatriate. He proposed that he should take over the plant and run it on behalf of KOC. He would ensure that the company received their required oxygen supply, and would sell the surplus to the merchant market – effectively becoming a trader in oxygen. This led to the formation of Kuwait Oxygen Company in 1953.
$quot;Demand grew over the next two years, and my father bought his first ASU from Germany, commissioned in 1956. The company became the first privately owned producer of oxygen in the Arabian Peninsula. Other private companies seemed to follow the lead and by 1956 there were plants in Saudi Arabia as well. It would be easy to say that we have never looked back since then but as you know from recent history, life has not been easy for Kuwait or the region over the past 20 years.$quot;
Soon after Kuwait Oxygen Co. was established, the Kuwait Oil Company objected to the company using the initials KOC, so Salim had to rename his company in English to become the Kuwait Oxygen and Acetylene Co. (KOAC).
In 1974, Salim Huneidi formed Kuwait Industrial Gases Corporation (KIGC) to produce gases and liquid and cater for the expanding petroleum industry. KIGC is located in the Shuaiba Industrial Area, which includes all the main refineries and petroleum installations. As part of this set-up KIGC has a pipeline linking it’s production facilities with the refineries.
Later, in 1977, Salim Huneidi decided to expand outside of Kuwait and invested in a gases operation in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), establishing Arabian Industrial Gases Co. (AIGCO) in Sharjah.
Amer Huneidi joined the company after graduating in 1986, entering the sales department. His role was to expand business in Iraq, at the time a fast growing market for speciality gases. $quot;By 1988, our business in Iraq was larger than in Kuwait with increasing orders to produce and distribute gas for Iraq.$quot;
$quot;Everything changed though in 1990!$quot;

The first Gulf War and the impact on KOAC/KIGP
On the 2nd August, Iraq invaded Kuwait and life for Kuwaitis and other residents changed dramatically. Not only was there devastating effects for local business, and damage done to major facilities but also many people fled the country.
$quot;While the occupation lasted 7 months,$quot; said Mr Huneidi, $quot;our company was closed down, our business in Iraq finished and our family fled along with many others.$quot;
He returned three days after liberation by the allied forces. Within a year, however, the company had begun operating again – but with difficulties.
$quot;Before the invasion we had 100 people working for us, many expatriates from neighbouring countries and India. It took three years to get back to the same level of business within Kuwait.$quot;
Many of the company’s customers had gone under. While re-construction took place, it was slow to kick off. Meanwhile the remainder of the Gulf region had moved on – it was boom time in other countries and Kuwait was being left behind.
Fortunately, the investment made in the UAE in 1977 gave the company a platform to develop after 1990.

KOAC and KIGC – what's the business?$quot;As I mentioned at the start, KOAC is the cylinder end of the business and we have a modern cylinder filling facility here in Shuaiba. We truck in liquid gases from our ASUs nearby to fill cylinders and produce our other needs.$quot;
KOAC owns and operates a 6tpd CO2 plant, a nitrous oxide plant, an acetylene unit and a small electrolysis hydrogen generator. The company is expanding its gas mixing capability. The company has a fleet of 20 cylinder trucks and recently introduced palletised cylinder handling to improve efficiency and safety. This has lead to a kaban cylinder handling process which is being continuously developed. The company currently processes 1,500 cylinders a day. KOAC also has an old cylinder handling depot in Shuwaikh, near Kuwait City.
Over at the gas production facility (KIGC), the company still operates a 25 tpd liquid plant that is 20 years old but the main feature of the facility is the 460 tpd ASU which was built in 2003 and clearly dominates the complex. The company has ample space for development and for distribution storage. KIGC has just invested a large number of brand new semi-trailer bulk liquid tankers from Cryolor.
KIGC supplies gaseous oxygen to Equate to support ethylene glycol production. It also has pipelines linking up two all three refineries of the major refineries in the region. The company recently commissioned a 150tpd Linde liquefier to support the growing demand for nitrogen in the oil and petrochemical business.

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