Munster-based German company Westfalen, and its Rosslange subsidiary Westfalen France S.a.r.l., has revealed it is to build an air separation plant in Burgundy, France at Le Creusot.

Supplying gas to the world’s largest steel manufacturer, ArcelorMittal, the deal represents the highest foreign investment in the company’s history.

With an investment of around €30m, the ASU is scheduled to come on line by mid 2010 and will produce up to 300 tonnes of nitrogen, oxygen and argon per day.

Part of the oxygen will be piped to the neighbouring Industeel Creusot steelworks, part of the ArcelorMittal Group, which produces special and high-grade steels for applications such as the petrochemicals and energy industries.

gasworld also understands that the contract, which also covers the delivery of nitrogen, will run for 15 years. Agreement has additionally been reached to supply other French ArcelorMittal sites by tanker, for which the steel giant has ensured the base loading for the plant and so made possible the new building project.

$quot;This is a major step forward in our European expansion,” explained Wolfgang Fritsch-Albert, CEO of Westfalen.

To date the Westfalen group of companies includes enterprises based in The Netherlands, France, Belgium, Switzerland and Austria – though this is a footprint the company is clearly keen to expand.

Regional supply
It’s thought that the contract was awarded to the Westfalen Group, as it already supplies gases to two other Arcelor-Mittal sites.

Reflecting on this, Fritsch-Albert added, $quot;Our recent commissioning in the region of a filling plant for industrial and food-grade gases was another point in our favour.”

Since the area possesses no other air separation plant it is likely that further companies in the region will also be supplied, while Westfalen states that particular emphasis has been put on energy efficiency.

A low pressure process will be employed for air separation at Le Creusot, with the plant taking up to 16,500 standard cubic metres of ambient air per hour from Italian company SIAD S.p.A.

The company has over 85 years' experience with air separation plants and today, Westfalen operates two air separation plants. Acetylene, hydrogen and special gases for medical, pharmaceutical, analytical and food applications are produced at other sites.

Posting 2008 profits of around €1.5bn, the family-run company’s Technical Gases Division offers over 300 gases and gas mixtures in total, together with innovative gas applications and supply concepts.