According to data compiled by the Japan Industrial and Medical Gases Association (JIMGA) for 2016, tanker trucks carrying liquid oxygen (O2), nitrogen (N2), argon (Ar) and carbon dioxide (CO2) travelled a total of 127.61 million km in 2016, The Gas Review revealed.

This data was tabulated by the JIMGA based on reports on liquid gas transported quantities, total transportation distances and fuel consumption from seven member companies – Taiyo Nippon Sanso, Air Water, Air Liquide Japan, Iwatani Corp., Nippon Ekitan, Showa Denko Gas Products and Air Water Tansan.

The total transportation distances were 24.60 million km for liquid O2, 61.11 million km for liquid N2, 12.72 million km for liquid Ar and 29.12 million km for liquefied CO2.

Taking a look at the 10-year trends from 2006 along with liquid gas sales quantities during the same periods show that liquid gas sales, transported quantities and total transportation distances all followed similar trends for air separated gases but that transportation distances greatly increased in comparison with sales quantities and transported quantities and transported quantities for liquefied CO2. Specifically, if liquefied CO2 sales for 2006 are taken as 100, sales decreased to 90.2 but the total transportation distance was up more than 30 points to 135.6 in 2016. Insufficient raw gas and the closing of gas sources resulted in more transportation between gas centres, causing an increase in transportation between centres that is not directly related to sales quantities. Over 10 years, the distances travelled by liquefied CO2 tanker trucks increased annually by 7.66 million km, creating higher costs due to increases in the number of tanker trucks in operation and greater fuel consumption. 

Although air-separated gases can be made from air at production plants close to the users, liquefied CO2 must be made at plants installed near the sources of the raw material byproduct gases generated by petroleum refining and ammonia plants.

As previously said, liquid bulk gas business is based on transportation in tanker trucks, so liquid gas transportation amounts are directly proportional to business activity. In air-separated gases, sales of liquid O2 in 2016 dropped to about 70% of the 2006 level. Transported quantities and transportation distances dropped to 88.7% and 84.7%, respectively. Transported quantities and transportation distances had remained flat since 2015, so it seems that the trend in reducing demand for liquid O2 has bottomed out.

Liquid N2 hit bottom in 2013 and the sales quantity transported quantity and transporation distance have all increased since then. In 2006, the ratio of the sales quantities of liquid O2 to liquid N2 was 2.4 but it increased to 2.8 in 2016, showing that the gap in demand for liquid O2 and N2 is widening.

For liquid argon, the transported quantity and transportation distance have increased more than the sales quantity over the last 10 years. The limited number of production plants for O2 in comparison with N2 is a factor in the increases in the transported quantity and transportation distance.