Air Liquide and Severstal, Russia’s second largest steel company, have launched the world’s biggest air separation unit in the steel industry in a €100m project.

Russian metal giant Severstal has teamed up with the French industrial gases firm to build the world’s biggest oxygen production unit, located in Cherepovetz in the Volagda region of Russia.

Air Liquide intends to increase its investment in Russia, with up to 15 projects thought to be underway as part of its search for new partners in the country. While the gases supplied by the unit will help Severstal improve its energy efficiency, it will also help expand Air Liquide’s business in Eastern Europe.

Aleksay Shuvalov, head of Air Liquide Severstal JV, commented, “The budget for this project was about €100m and as already mentioned, we did not exceed that budget. Severstal has a 25 percent stake in the project, while Air Liquide controls the rest.”

The unit, which was officially launched this week, has a capacity of 3,000 tpd of oxygen and will supply the steel mill with pure, high-pressure oxygen, as well as nitrogen and argon.

For Air Liquide, the project is a further step forward for future developments in the region. Executive vice president Klaus Schmieder stated, “Liquefied oxygen will be supplied to many customers in the area in many industries, like the food and metal-working industry, and in environmental applications. It is a starting-point for a growing business in a market which has a lot of attention to us, that is – Russia.”

Oxygen accounts for around 20 percent of the air we breathe and is one of the most vital elements in steel production.