Season’s Greetings one and all – it’s that time of year again! A time to reflect, a time to give thanks – and perhaps a time to look back upon the events of 2013.

Amidst the mince pies, sparkling drinks and seasonal festivities, this week gasworld looks at the developments that have been making the headlines in the industrial gas and equipment business in 2013.

It’s been quite a year, with news and views covering a whole range of topics within the industrial gases business. From M&A to LNG and from helium to hydrogen, we’ve seen the dynamics and demands of the industry evolve.

For the next four days we look at the developments in the industry from quarter to quarter. Today we look at developments in first quarter 2013.

First quarter

Just days before the New Year began and the US House of Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings unveiled a discussion draft of the Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act.

It came a crucial time in the global helium business, with the so-called ‘Helium Cliff’ looming and supply shortages prevailing across the globe as new capacity entering the market was either delayed or slower to ramp-up than anticipated.

As January unfolded a discussion draft of the proposed new legislation was in circulation. But the future stewardship of the US Federal Helium Reserve was arguably the biggest story of 2013, and would there would be plenty more waiting to be endured yet.

Business merger deal

The industrial gas acquisition trail began in earnest on 2nd January when Airgas announced that Red-D-Arc, an Airgas company, has acquired Texas based D&D Power.

This was followed by Airgas’ acquisition of the assets and operations of two core industrial gas and welding supply distributors that complement the Airgas portfolio of products and services – and added combined annual revenues of more than $30m to the fold.

The M&A activity continued in January with Air Liquide Industrial US acquiring Oklahoma-based oilfield services company Progressive Resources (PRI), and MATHESON purchasing the assets and business of South Dakota’s Evergreen Supply.

Other industry highlights in the month included:

  • The Harris Products Group scooping IndustryWeek’s prestigious and nationwide Best Plant award, after continually demonstrating assessed improvements during a three-year period
  • Linde Thailand investing around Bt 500m (€12m approx.) in a new 300 tpd merchant carbon dioxide plant in Map Ta Phut
  • The Messer Group and Sichuan Meifeng signing a joint venture agreement worth €7.24m to found Sichuan Meifeng Messer Gas Products, with the aim of producing (annually) around 100,000 tons of liquid carbon dioxide from industrial CO2 waste gases – and representing Messer’s first production plant for liquid carbon dioxide in China
  • Air Products announcing that Phase One of its two-stage carbon capture project in Port Arthur, Texas was on-stream, described by the US Department of Energy (DOE) as a milestone in its Industrial Carbon Capture and Storage (ICCS) programme.

January also saw MATHESON, Linde and Air Liquide sign MoU’s with Gazprom for future helium cooperation linked to the East Siberian Gas Programme.

The project activity certainly picked up in February as Praxair, Air Liquide and Airgas all made multi-million dollar headlines.

Praxair entered into an agreement to acquire NuCO2 Inc., the leading national provider of beverage carbonation solutions in the US, from the Aurora Capital Group for $1.1bn in cash. Also in the field of carbon dioxide, Airgas announced plans to build a new 450 tonnes-per-day (tpd) liquid carbon dioxide plant in the greater Houston area to replace its plant at the Shell Deer Park Refinery complex that was expected to close later in the year.

Meanwhile Air Liquide was readying investments on two fronts in February, namely Europe and the Asia-Pacific.

The company first revealed it was investing an additional €65m in the Rotterdam basin, the second-largest chemical and petrochemical basin in Europe, with a new carbon monoxide production unit in the Port of Rotterdam, and followed this with the news that it had been awarded two long-term contracts in China to supply ultra-pure carrier molecules to two cutting-edge flat panel display fabs.

Sadly February 2013 was also a month marked by tragedy, with the explosion at an Air Liquide specialty gas facility in La Porte, Texas that took the life of one employee and seriously injured another.

“If February was a month dominated by the announcements of Airgas, Air Liquide and Praxair, then March would prove to be a period of particular activity for Air Products and The Linde Group…”

If February was a month dominated by the announcements of Airgas, Air Liquide and Praxair, then March would prove to be a period of particular activity for Air Products and The Linde Group.

Not only did Air Products’ new 4000 tpd set of ASUs come on-stream at what is the largest pressure oxidation (POX) gold production facility in the world in Pueblo Viejo, in the Dominican Republic, but the company also revealed considerable success in China with the second-largest ASU onsite order ever awarded to the company for a single project.

Signing a long-term agreement with Shanxi Lu’An Mining (Group) Co. Ltd, Air Products announced that it was set to build, own and operate no less than four ASUs producing oxygen, nitrogen, compressed instrument air and steam to supply Lu’An’s multiple process trains at its coal gasification facility to be built in Changzhi City, Shanxi Province.

Linde also scored success in China, with the news that it would be building six major ASUs for Shenhua Ningxia Coal Industry Group Co. Ltd and Shenhua Logistics Group Co. Ltd in Yinchuan in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in Northwest China, each unit supplying around 100,000 normal cubic metres of gaseous oxygen per hour (Nm³/h) to Shenhua Ningxia’s Coal-to-Liquid (CTL) complex at Ningdong Energy Chemical Base.

Elsewhere in the industrial gas world in March, Chart Industries’ wholly owned China subsidiary was awarded a contract to provide self-contained LNG station modules, storage tanks, and vehicle tanks for LNG service to PetroChina, FIBA Technologies, Inc. has acquired fellow compressed gas equipment services and products group AMKO Service Company, and Global Gases America announced that its specialty gases fill plant located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was nearing completion.

Bringing the first quarter to a fitting close was the 100th anniversary of the Compressed Gas Association (CGA). The founding fathers started the association on 21st March 1913 and although its celebrations would come a month later at its annual meeting, 21st March proudly marked 100 years of gas safety for the CGA.


Part 2

Tomorrow we look back on developments in second quarter 2013, including project activity in the US, India, Bahrain South Africa and China, and a major acquisition in the CO2 business.