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 3 of gasworld’s review of the developments in the industry from quarter to quarter.

Following headline acquisitions in the second quarter for Union Engineering, Praxair and Air Liquide, today we look at developments in third quarter 2013 and two long-awaited, major developments in the global helium business.

Third quarter

July picked up much where June had left off, with Praxair firming up its presence in the rapidly growing Russian market. The company entered into a definitive agreement to form a joint venture with OJSC KuibyshevAzot, in central Russia’s Samara region, to produce and sell industrial gases.

One of those major developments in the helium business arrived early in the quarter when RasGas, together with Air Liquide, started up the world’s largest helium purification and liquefaction unit – Qatar II.

The turnkey project at Ras Laffan Industrial City, Qatar boasts a production capacity of approximately 38 million cubic metres of helium per year when operating at its peak and, coupled with the existing unit on the site, contributes to making Qatar the world’s second-largest producer of helium with 25% of current global production.

Air Liquide was also involved in another industrial gas trend in early July as it continued to build its presence in the budding homecare market, this time via deals to acquire two Poland-based home healthcare companies – HELP! and Ventamed.

Euro currency finance

July would prove to be a busy month for the Paris-based Tier One player, having proclaimed an additional investment of €50m in the Antwerp basin in Belgium – supplying BASF with carbon monoxide.

A new carbon monoxide production unit located next to its existing facilities, Air Liquide explained, is scheduled to be up and running in first quarter 2015 and will double its carbon monoxide production capacity in the basin.

In the UK, Air Products’ hydrogen representatives joined Assistant Bristol Mayor, Councillor Gus Hoyt, and Bristol Hydrogen Boats at an event to celebrate the UK’s first successful hydrogen-powered ferry project. The ferry, named ‘Hydrogenesis’, took its first pilot voyage in Bristol harbour in August 2012 and from March 2013 the 11m (36ft) 12-seat vessel began offering a commercial ferry service to residents, commuters and tourists in Bristol.

Meanwhile, UK-based Bestobell Valves secured a major new contract to supply cryogenic valves to TGE (Marine Gas Engineering) in Germany for two fuel-efficient dual-fuel cruise liners.

Across ‘the pond’ in the US, Gas Innovations, revealed the completion of its high pressure filling facility in La Porte, Texas and increased its capacity for tube trailer and cylinder filling of carbon monoxide, ethane, methane (CNG), and ethylene as a result.

And in Korea, Praxair Korea completed the start-up of its second state-of-the-art ASU at the Samsung semiconductor facility in Hwasung, Korea.

Staying in the Asia-Pacific region, and August began with Messer’s news that it would be building a new ASU in the Paojiang industrial zone located in Shaoxing in Zhejiang province, to produce around 520 tpd of air gases, and a filling plant for gases in cylinders. Each month it will be possible to fill up to 100,000 cylinders with industrial gases there; the plants are scheduled to be in service in second half 2014.

Back in the Americas, Praxair began operating a second nitrogen plant at its facility in Kirtland, New Mexico, due to growing demand for the gas in the San Juan basin. The new plant, along with an additional liquefier expansion originally scheduled to be completed later in the year, will increase total capacity at the site to 300 tpd of liquid nitrogen – in addition to gaseous nitrogen that is being supplied to local pipeline customers under long-term contracts.

“This was a big day for me. I have owned the magazine since 1988 and with our team have built the business to become a household name for industrial gases news and views across the US and internationally”

A pan UK-Americas alliance of a very different kind in the industrial gases business was also breaking news in August, as gasworld secured a deal to purchase fellow publication CryoGas International. Effective from 5th August, gasworld strengthened its presence in North America with the acquisition of Lexington-based CryoGas.

President of JR Campbell & Associates, John ‘Buzz’ Campbell, said of the deal for the publication he built throughout the years, “This was a big day for me. I have owned the magazine since 1988 and with our team have built the business to become a household name for industrial gases news and views across the US and internationally.”

As September dawned, all eyes were on the fate of the US Federal Helium and its future governance – with the notorious ‘Helium Cliff’ scenario fast approaching.

IOM Spotlight on helium 2

As it expected, it was arguably the biggest development in the quarter and the year when the crisis was averted as the US House of Representatives unanimously backed measures to reauthorise the Federal Helium Program.

The House passed the resolution that would suspend its procedural rules and adopt the Senate version of the legislation to reauthorise the Federal Helium Program, a vote unanimously in favour at 367 - 0.

This eliminated the need for a conference committee as the House and Senate had backed the Bill and it would later be signed and sealed at the Whitehouse by President Obama, securing the continuation of the BLM programme under the current allocation process for another year.

Elsewhere, September saw a host of other developments in the industry:

  • The Linde Group was awarded a contract to build the world’s largest carbon dioxide (CO2) purification and liquefaction plant for Jubail United Petrochemical Company (UNITED), a manufacturing affiliate of SABIC
  • Taylor-Wharton Cryogenics LCC introduced a new generation of MicroBulk storage tanks, with the new cryogenic storage vessels using the latest cold stretch manufacturing technology allied to improved, updated features and capabilities
  • Airgas Carbonic signed a long-term agreement for the supply of liquid carbon dioxide (CO2) from Fox River Valley Ethanol’s recently acquired plant in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, under which it will market food and beverage-grade liquid CO2 co-products from the plant, expected to yield 250 tpd of liquid CO2
  • Praxair India Private Limited signed two long-term contracts with JSW Steel, to operate small on-site nitrogen plants in support of the company’s expansion efforts in the cities of Kalameshwar and Tarapur
  • Air Liquide continued its rapid growth in Northern Mexico as new agreements with Altos Hornos de Mexico (AHMSA) for the acquisition of an ASU were unveiled. Air Liquide also secured investment of more than €45m (US$60m) for the construction and operation of another ASU, both located on AHMSA’s Monclova, Coahuila, Mexico site.

John McGlade is Chairman, President and CEO of Air Products.

Source: Air Products

Two other interesting announcements were made in quarter three, concerning the future leadership of two of the industry’s biggest players.

Air Products revealed that it was adding three new independent directors to its Board of Directors and would commence a search to identify a successor to current Chairman and CEO John E. McGlade (pictured), who will retire in 2014.

Meanwhile, the Supervisory Board of Linde AG appointed Dr. Wolfgang Büchele (54) as a member of the Executive Board effective 1st May 2014 and designated him as CEO, taking over from current CEO Prof. Dr Wolfgang Reitzle (64) following the annual general meeting in May 2014.


Part 3

Qatar II inauguration

Source: RasGas

Our final installment tomorrow looks back on developments in fourth quarter 2013, including the official inauguration of the Qatar II

helium plant, further project activity across the globe, and even more shifts in the industry dynamics as we knew them. 

Catch-up on Parts 1 and 2 of our year in review by following the links below: