Set deep in the picturesque, mountainous northern Italy, a region bordered by the snow-capped Alps, lies the historic and ancient town of Bergamo.

Around 40km northeast of Milan and at the foothills of the Alps, Bergamo is something of a rustic settlement in the Lombardy region and a town steeped in history.

Nearby Monza, famed for its Autodromo Nazionale Monza grand prix motor racing circuit, is the third-largest city of Lombardy and an important economic, industrial and administrative hub.

The 30-minute route down the A4 between Monza and Bergamo is laden with industry, home to a wealth of large companies and corporations. And while these two townships may be known for their textiles, publishing, art and culture, amid the characteristic skyline of towers, cupolas and campaniles is another notable landmark – the so-called ‘gas valley’.

The gas valley from Bergamo to Monza is home to a number of charismatic Italian industrial gas & equipment companies, including SIAD, TPI, VRV, SOL, TenarisDalmine and Sapio.

Meanwhile, the gas footprint continues further afield as ASUs and local offices of Air Liquide adorn the landscape nearer Milan.

With such a wealth of industrial gas & equipment expertise proudly on hand, gasworld thought it only right to embark on its very own ‘Italian job’ and travel to the heart of this gas metropolis.

Visiting gas valley
After flying into Milan and driving east to Bergamo, our industrial gas tour began with a trip to TPI-Tecno Project Industriale, subsidiary of the SIAD Group and experts in the CO2 business.

It’s easy to see how the company has reached such a status. TPI-Tecno Project Industriale is recognised around the world for its expertise in the field of CO2 production, recovery, purification and liquefaction. The company provides solution for industrial gas markets from the beverage market to technical gas industry applications.

In the past 20 years, TPI-Tecno Project Industriale has been a leader in many of the improvements to existing technology that have now become the standards in the industry. This development, together with TPI’s dedication to continual improvement, ensures each application is afforded the very latest technology. This has been demonstrated through the many TPI-Tecno Project Industriale plants installed and operating for leading companies throughout the world.

The international footprint has spread far and wide throughout the world, installing plants & equipment operating throughout the world from Siberia to New Caledonia.

Indeed, our welcoming host and General Manager of the company’s CO2 division, Ugo Moretti, had only just returned from a week away in Korea, where TPI-Tecno Project Industriale has recently supplied yet another desalination plant.

Discussing the company’s ever-fruitful position in the gases business, Moretti explained, “Tecno Project Industriale was established in 1987 and settled in Curno, Bergamo, as a consulting and engineering company in the food grade CO2 equipment business.”

“Tecno Project Industriale has acquired a leading position in the design and manufacture of CO2 plants & equipment as well as air and industrial gases treatment.”

And as we take a tour around the impressive TPI-Tecno Project Industriale manufacturing site in Bergamo, Moretti is keen to point out that TPI-Tecno Project Industriale spreads this global expertise under its own guise. A conveniently placed cryogenic tank emblazoned with the distinctive red TPI-Tecno Project Industriale logo reinforces this message as we move around the site.

Onwards and into another warehouse, and we’re shown a glimpse of just some of the fruits of TPI’s labour; pristine plant equipment from dryers for compressed air facilities to liquefaction skids is awaiting shipment to South Africa, the Middle East and Far East, or other exotic corners of the world.

Before too long however, it’s a case of arrivederci and on to our next destination – SIAD itself.

SIAD – A family company
From TPI to SIAD, parent company of the former and with its own headquarters set right in the heart of Bergamo’s Citta bassa (lower city).

Behind the broad gates of the SIAD site lay a mini village which is home to all manner of the company’s internal operations, including the office of our April 2010 Interviewee of the Month, Bernardo Sestini.

As Managing Director, Sestini has seen his family-owned company fuse the ‘two different worlds’ of gases and engineering together to both integrate and optimise the synergies they provide.

As we sit in a meeting room at the core of SIAD’s Bergamo complex, Sestini describes how optimising the synergies between gases & engineering is an ongoing strategy. So too is the resolve to capture the opportunities that emerge and indeed, already exist, as a result of these synergies.

Acquisitions, we’re told, are not necessarily on the agenda and the quintessentially Italian gases group is focused on growth across its existing businesses. This includes the evolution of SIAD Macchine Impianti, the engineering & construction company of the SIAD Group, operating with a good order backlog up until the end of 2011 and in an equipment market that Sestini describes as ‘still very good’.

From one family-owned company to another and more specifically, leading cryogenic equipment manufacturer VRV S.p.A..

The VRV Group specialises in the storage, transport and distribution of liquefied cryogenic gases, and from standard to highly engineered products, the group is capable of providing its customers with a wide range of cryogenic solutions.

Based in Ornago, the ever-expanding VRV enterprise appears just as confident about its order backlog over the course of the next twelve months and beyond – and is also eager to urge a sense of optimism.

Chatting with Federico Spada, CEO of the Cryogenic Division, gasworld understands that investments in people and facilities are key objectives to the group strategy.

“We see the investment in India as a growth trend, while in Italy as a way to improve our efficiency and consolidate our leadership, enabling us to become a global player,” Spada explained.

“This is proven by the new manufacturing facility based in Chennai, India, boasting an area of 130,000 m2 and by the new Ornago-based production hall of 8,000 m2 now under construction.”

To understand Italy’s gas valley, you really have to see it. There’s such a clustering of industrial gas & equipment companies, that you’re never too far from a fellow innovator in the industry

Just a short distance back towards Bergamo is TenarisDalmine, our next host and the next leg of the Italian job...

Watch out for Part 2 of the Italian job next month!