Industrial gas is a group of gases that are commercially manufactured and sold for uses in other applications. The most common industrial gases are:air gases - oxygen (O2), nitrogen (N2) and argon (Ar) rare gases - such as helium (He), krypton (Kr), xenon (Xe) and neon (Ne) and other gases like hydrogen (H2), carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O) ,chlorine (Cl2), hydrogen chloride (HCl) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) ,acetylene (C2H2), methane (CH4) and propane (C3H8).
In addition, there are many different mixtures of these and other gases to meet the needs of specific applications. The industrial and medical gases industry serves a very large number of customers in the whole community. Industrial gases are essential for almost all manufacturing. Large quantities of oxygen, nitrogen and argon are used in the steel and metal industry. Shipyards and the automotive industry use acetylene, propane, mixtures of fuel gases and oxygen for cutting and welding. Liquid nitrogen is vital in recycling plastics, packaging and scrap tyres. The chemical industry employs all major industrial gases as a raw material or for inerting. The other smaller market segment consists of cylinder gas and mixtures.
According to the Freedonia group, inc., a Cleveland-based industry research firm, world demand for industrial gases is forecast to increase 6.9% annually to $36.8 billion in 2011, with volume exceeding 300-bcm (billion cubic meters). Asia/pacific is the largest consuming region because of rapid growth in developing industrial markets, especially those of china and India.
Coming back to India, there are presently over 300 small & medium size plants and approximately 25 large tonnage plants all over the country. These gases are supplied through pipelines to captive customers in adjacent factories; in cryogenic transport tanks for bulk deliveries to long distance customers; or filled in cylinders.
The present annual turnover of the gas industry, excluding captive production is about Rs. 3,000 crores ($650 million). With increased industrialization, the demand pattern of industrial gases is also changing fast. Modern application in the food processing industry, agro industries, healthcare and technology are growing at a tremendous pace. This has driven the industry to adopt stringent quality control systems and an efficient distribution network.
Major players in India include BOC India, INOX Air Products Ltd., Jindal Praxair Oxygen Co. Ltd., Air Liquide India Holding P.Ltd., Aims Industries Ltd etc.
The Indian gas industry is growing at an average rate of 12 per cent per annum during the last couple of years, with the industrial oxygen growing consistently at 15-17 per cent per annum. The growth of industrial gas industry can be easily forecast on the basis of projections of the steel and other metallurgical industry. Steel demand is seen rising by 10% in the fiscal year to march 2011, helped by higher spending on infrastructure will continue to drive growth of the gas industry. Natural gas comprises 9 % of India's primary energy consumption and it will be 14% of energy mix by 2010. Demand for natural gas is also likely to increase at an average annual growth rate of 7.3%.Metals production and fabrication will continue to be the largest market for industrial gases, accounting for 31% of total demand in value terms in coming years. The second largest market will be the chemical processing/petroleum refining segment. The medical/healthcare market, though smaller in size, will be the fastest growing and record gains from the expansion of healthcare services in developing nations and rapidly increasing use of home healthcare respiratory therapies in advanced economics. Hydrogen is gaining prominence and most companies are striving to develop technologies that can efficiently exploit the potential of hydrogen. Increased use of natural gas will create an opportunity for higher production of argon and carbon dioxide. The Industrial gas industry has a very bright future in the coming years.