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.

Welcome to Part 2 of gasworld’s review of the developments in the industry from quarter to quarter.

After a first quarter where M&A activity got off to a brisk start, considerable project activity was announced globally, and concern began to really mount for the future of security of the US Federal Helium Reserve, today we look at developments in second quarter 2013.

Second quarter

April began brightly with the first M&A activity of the second quarter and with it, an acquisition that would make major waves in the carbon dioxide (CO2) business.

Union Engineering a/s acquired 100% of the shares of The Wittemann Company, LLC, bringing two of the industry’s key players in CO2 technology and production together.

The deal allows the company to expand its presence in the market and Bill Geiger, who continued as Managing Director of Wittemann, said of the deal, “The product lines and services provided by Union Engineering and The Wittemann Company are very complementary of one another. The joining of resources with Union provides Wittemann the opportunity to expand its presence and capabilities in the expanding global CO2 market.”

Witteman would go on to be renamed as Union Engineering North America later in the year.

April continued to be a busy month, with a number of developments revealed:

  • Butler Gas Products announced the unveiling of its new specialty gas facility, to become the regional gas manufacturer and distributor of choice
  • Servomex reflected on its successful demonstration of the capability (of its SERVOPRO Chroma trace gas analyser) of argon recovery, measurably improving both productivity and profitability in a range of argon producing applications
  • Air Products and Technip marked two decades of operational excellence and success, as they celebrated the 20-year milestone of the longest and most productive global hydrogen alliance
  • Air Products also became the latest Tier One players in the field to sign up to future helium cooperation with Gazprom and in a separate development, received its first major LNG heat exchanger order for a liquefaction project based in the US
  • Norco, Inc. announced the acquisition of Northern Medical Systems, a respiratory and medical supply firm with locations in Chewelah and Newport, Washington.

In terms of plant developments:

  • Air Liquide’s Large Industries US LP announced two new projects in Freeport, Texas for its Gulf Coast Pipeline (GCPL) and Hydrogen/Syngas businesses
  • The Linde Group was awarded a major contract by Reliance Industries (RI) to build several plants to generate and purify gases in Jamnagar, India
  • Afrox officially opened its new R200m ASU at its Pretoria West site
  • AMCS Corporation successfully commissioned a new 250 tonne per day (tpd) nitrogen liquefaction unit in Salerno, Italy
  • Two Praxair subsidiaries, White Martins and Praxair Bahrain, also started-up new ASU in Brazil and the Kingdom of Bahrain, respectively.

Early May saw WesMor Cryogenic Manufacturing introduce a new transport trailer to the growing LNG market, BOC signed a long-term agreement to supply industrial gases to one of the biggest steelmakers in the UK, SSI Steel UK, and the latest update in the ongoing helium market shortages involved a hearing to discuss the proposed Helium Stewardship Act of 2013 introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski.

As the month progressed, Air Liquide signed a long-term contract with Fujian Shenyuan New Materials Co., Ltd (Fujian Shenyuan) to supply industrial gases for its caprolactam production project located in Lianjiang Kemen Economic & Development Zone, Fujian Province, South-East of China.

The Linde Group revealed investments in both Russia and the US, with a new, state-of-the-art 1,340 tpd on-site ammonia plant to be constructed in Russia and a large, state-of-the art ASU and gasification train to be built in La Porte, Texas.

Air Products’ South American venture INDURA was also to build a new plant in Antofagasta, Chile, as well as expand the capacity of its Graneros plant, south of Santiago at a combined investment of more than $15m.

Business deal merger handshake

Just as Union Engineering’s acquisition of Witteman gave the quarter a thrusting start to M&A activity, there was a fillip in this field at the end of May as Praxair Offshore Services Limited acquired Scotland-based Dominion Technology Gases Investment Limited (Dominion). The deal uniquely positions Praxair to provide industry-leading products and services to an expanded base of high-value customers in the global offshore oil and gas market.

Moving on into June, and the acquisition trail firmly continued as Air Products purchased North American liquid CO2 producer EPCO Carbon Dioxide Products, Inc., and Air Liquide made the headlines with an agreement to acquire Voltaix Inc., a US-based electronics materials company. The acquisition would close later in the summer.

Linde announced it would now be managing the gas supply infrastructure of SIBUR at its Dzerzhinsk site in the Nizhny Novgorod region of Russia, as well as building and operating two new ASUs in the country, investing €70m in the two latter projects.

Air Liquide signed a new long-term contract with LyondellBasell in the US, Praxair set sail on the construction of its second ASU and the extension of its pipeline system in the Port of Antwerp, MATHESON announced plans to build a new large capacity ASU in Arizona, and AMCS Corporation committed to continuing its relationship with SOL S.p.A after agreeing to supply a merchant ASU in Bulgaria.

The M&A trend was given one last push toward the end of the second quarter as Praxair, Inc. was again busy and acquired Volgograd Oxygen Factory (VOF), a leading producer and distributor of industrial gases in southern Russia – significantly strengthening the company’s merchant liquid and packaged gas business in the region.

Helium summit panel

Source: gasworld

Although held much earlier in the month, arguably one of the biggest stories in June was the first ever Global Helium Summit. Held in London, UK, the summit explored the trends, technologies and dynamics in the helium supply chain and attracted more than 100 delegates over 15 countries.

Key speakers from Air Products, Linde Gas, Air Liquide, Global Gases, Siemens Magnet Technology, Gazprom and more all graced the Summit stage to explain the market dynamics and urge action in the supply chain.


Part 3

Tomorrow we look back on developments in third quarter 2013, including ventures in Russia, Poland, Korea, Belgium, Saudi Arabia, India and the US, and the long-awaited start-up of the Qatar II helium plant by RasGas and Air Liquide.

Catch-up on Part 1 of our year in review by following the link below: