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

Following a first quarter where M&A activity got off to a brisk start, as did considerable global project activity, the second quarter was perhaps defined by headline acquisitions for Union Engineering, Praxair and Air Liquide. This was followed in the third quarter by two long-awaited, major developments in the global helium business.

Here we reflect on developments in the fourth quarter that have brought this progressive year in gas to its conclusion.

Fourth quarter

Effective 1st October, the businesses of Arcet Equipment Co. and Machine & Welding Supply Co. merged and will initially operate as wholly-owned subsidiaries of a new entity known as Arc3 Gases, Inc.

The 50/50 merger brings together two long-standing, independent industrial gas and welding supply distributors in the southeast US.

October proceeded to be a busy period for the global gases industry as the effects of the traditional ‘summer slowdown’ firmly dissipated and several regional projects were disclosed.

  • Air Products signed a long-term agreement with Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) to build, own, and operate several new industrial gas production facilities in Kochi, Kerala, India
  • Airgas, Inc. reached a definitive agreement to acquire the assets and operations of The Encompass Gas Group, Inc., headquartered in Rockford, Illinois
  • Electronic Fluorocarbons LLC secured a global exclusive supply agreement with 3M for the supply of Octafluoropropane (C3F8). Perhaps unfamiliar to many, Octafluoropropane (C3F8) is a fluorocarbon used in both electronics and medical applications and for Electronic Fluorocarbons LLC, the new deal with 3M is a significant coup, strengthening its product range
  • Air Products revealed plans to build, own and operate a new liquid nitrogen production facility in West Texas to serve the oil and gas industry in the Permian Basin, with an approx. 250 tonne per day (tpd) capacity and to be on-stream in 2015
  • AMCS Corporation (AMCS) and Cristal USA Inc. entered into a lump-sum turnkey contract whereby AMCS will supply a customised ASU for Cristal USA’s operations in Ashtabula, Ohio
  • Set to be commissioned in second-half 2015, Air Products and subsidiary Air Products Canada Ltd. announced plans to build, own and operate a new world-scale hydrogen production plant in Canada, producing over 150 million standard cubic feet per day (MMSCFD) of hydrogen
  • White Martins started up a new 800 tpd ASU in the state of Minas Gerais, southeastern Brazil, supplying industrial gases to ArcelorMittal
  • Air Products signed a contract to supply both gaseous and liquid nitrogen to Prime Evolue Singapore
  • Aspen Air doubled its production of industrial gases in Lockwood, Canada with the opening of a new production facility.

Aside from these project developments, Union Engineering again made the news with its breakthrough in the field of CO2 recovery for the beverages business. With brewer Carlsberg as a pilot company, Union Engineering significantly improved CO2 re-use with its new ECO2Brew recovery plant for breweries.

Ready for the global market, the patent-pending and proven technology enables significant savings in the production of beer and soft drinks. Carlsberg is understood to be so pleased with the technology that it had already signed a contract for a second installation.

Helium image newsletter

In a year where developments in the global helium business had already made considerable headlines throughout, two further moves were announced in the fourth quarter. IACX Energy commenced helium production and sales from a new facility located at the Harley Dome in Utah – the first helium-only application to extract the rare gas from federal lands, and IACX’s third helium plant.

Air Products also engaged in a new project to extract helium from a naturally occurring underground carbon dioxide (CO2) source. The project targets the extraction of helium from a CO2 gas source that is being processed by Kinder Morgan CO2 Company, LP at a facility in Doe Canyon, Colorado.

Moving into November and Victor Technologies™ acquired Gas-Arc Group Ltd, a privately held manufacturer of gas control equipment based in the UK for approximately $40m in cash, Airgas selected the Prologis International Centre South in Minooka, Illinois as the site for its new 450 tpd ASU in the Chicago area, Gulf Cryo celebrated its 60th anniversary in style both by attending the 2013 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit and by hosting a gala dinner in Kuwait, and in an exclusive interview with gasworld magazine Plug Power CEO Andy Marsh described the company’s business transformation as like a ‘phoenix rising from the ashes’.

Also in the news, DataOnline completed the signing of a long-term and large-scale global licensing agreement for its flagship on-demand service, DOLV3, with a fortune 500 company and, following the successful commissioning of the second phase of its ultra high purity ammonia production facility, Jinhong Gas confirmed its capability to produce 3,000 tonnes of ultra high purity ammonia each year.

Bringing the quarter and the year to a close, December has been filled with a flurry of announcements and potentially market shifting events.

Early in the month, Worthington Industries confirmed the construction of a new acetylene cylinder massing plant in Kienberg, Austria, after its existing massing plant was destroyed by fire in August (2013). The plant will be located along with Worthington’s cylinder manufacture facility in Kienberg and production is anticipated to resume in second quarter 2014.

This was swiftly followed by the breaking news of Cryogas Express’ expansion into the Middle East region. Having filled the ‘critical supply service gap’ in Southern Africa for the last five years, Cryogas Express (Pty) Ltd has announced its imminent expansion into the Middle East market via a new partnership with Tristar, part of the Agility group.

“Fittingly for a year dominated by helium and the changing dynamics in this business, we round-up quarter four with word of the opening of the Qatar II helium plant…”

The announcement was made at gasworld’s MENA Industrial Gas Conference 2013 held in Dubai, UAE.

Also emerging during the conference was news of a change in ownership at RegO and Goddard Valves. Windjammer Capital Investors and CITIC Capital Partner partnered with the Engineered Controls International (ECI) management team to acquire ECI LLC. The company manufactures RegO LP-Gas products, RegO Cryo-Flow products, RegO LNG products and Goddard Valves.

Other developments in the month included:

  • Linde-BOC revealing the availability of Opteon® YF (R1234yf) in the UK and Ireland, a new environmentally friendly refrigerant for cars
  • Praxair, Inc starting-up its new 450 tpd carbon dioxide (CO2) purification facility at the Honeywell Resins & Chemicals site in Hopewell, Virginia.
  • Airgas projecting plans to expand its atmospheric gas production capacity in New England (US) by building a new ASU in Bozrah, Connecticut, in order to meet the expected increase in demand for merchant gases across its diverse customer base in the region
  • Confirmation from Air Liquide that the beginning of 2014 will see it open a new production site at Chimgrad, Russia, a station for receiving, storing and distributing air separation products.

Fittingly for a year dominated by helium and the changing dynamics in this business, we round-up quarter four with word of the opening of the Qatar II helium plant in Ras Laffan Industrial City.

While the plant actually began operation in July, RasGas officially inaugurated Qatar II on 11th December, marking an important shift in the make-up of the global helium market. The development represents the world’s largest helium plant coming on-stream in the Middle East and reinforces the trend for helium sources moving away from their traditional base in the US.

gasworld understands from senior sources that, as of October 2013, ‘Helium 2’ was running at close to full capacity with a reported utilisation rate of 95%. With ‘Helium 2’ on-stream, Qatar is now the largest exporter and the second-largest producer outright of helium in the world.

Christmas pudding

So as the curtain falls on 2013 and a bright and prosperous New Year beckons, there appears to be much hope ahead for the future of the industrial gases business.

The wheels are now in motion for a redressing of helium supply balance globally, new production plants have been brought on-stream around the world and plenty of project backlog will be realised throughout the industry in the year ahead.

As we embark upon 2014, we wish Season’s Greetings to everyone – see you in the New Year!


Catch-up online

Look back on all the major developments in 2013, quarter by quarter, in parts 1,2 and 3 of our year in review, by following the links below: