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Praxair joins the Canadian chemical scene.

Previously known as Linde, this company is Canada's largest producer of industrial, medical and specialty gases

A familiar chemical company name has disappeared from the Canadian scene, but it is not another victim of the recession. Linde Canada Inc. has changed its name to Praxair Canada Inc.

Company president Paul Bilek explained that the change came about from Union Carbide Corp.'s (Linde's parent) desire to spin off its worldwide industrial gases unit (Union Carbide Industrial Gases Inc.). Praxair Canada is part of Praxair Inc., headquartered in Danbury, CT. (Since the interview with ACCN, Bilek has been appointed head of Praxair Surface Technologies Inc., Indianapolis, IN. Michael E. De Domenico is the new president of Praxair Canada Inc.)

"We needed a name that could be used around the world. Our rights to the Linde name only extended to North America," Bilek added. Praxair comes from praxis -- practical application -- and air, the company's original business focus.

With the spin-off complete July 1, 1992, there is no legal or financial relationship between Praxair and Union Carbide. Each will focus on its own strategies, markets and customers.

Praxair is Canada's largest producer of industrial, medical and specialty gases. In Canada, the company employs 1500 people at 12 production facilities and 100 sales/distribution offices located across the country. Annual sales total $300 million in Canada, $3 billion worldwide.

Chemical and steel producers, the electronics, medical and metal fabricating industries are Praxair's main customers. Its primary product lines are oxygen, argon, nitrogen, helium, hydrogen, acetylene and specialty gases. Praxair can also supply the equipment needed to use these gases, e.g., welding and respiratory equipment.

Three delivery methods

Depending on the amount of product needed, Praxair will serve a client one of three ways.

* It will build a production facility at the customer's site. This is for large volume users.

* Its own facilities separate and liquify the gas for shipping. At the customer's, it is returned to gaseous form and used as a gas. This is for mid-volume users.

* In the package gases unit, gases are compressed under high pressure into cylinders. This is for smaller volumes, e.g., welding.

One of Praxair Canada's most recent contracts is for a 25-tonne-per-day (t/d) vacuum pressure swing adsorption (VPSA) oxygen plant at Malette Inc.'s bleached kraft pulp mill in Smooth Rock Falls, ON. The oxygen will be used for high-consistency oxygen delignification, primarily as a substitute for chlorine compounds used for pulp bleaching. The mill has already replaced molecular chlorine used for bleaching with chlorine dioxide.

The VPSA system separates air by using molecular sieves to selectively adsorb nitrogen while letting oxygen pass through. The nitrogen is later desorbed so the adsorbent can be re-used. The system is best for flows of 10 to 100 t/d, where oxygen purity of 90 to 93% is acceptable.

Bilek claimed that experience has shown that a mill can reduce its use of chlorine compounds by more than 30% by using oxygen delignification compared with conventional digesting and bleaching. The new plant is expected to reduce Malette's need for the chlorine dioxide and sodium hydroxide now used for bleaching.

VPSA is new technology. Pressure swing adsorption has been around for a while, but the vacuum part is new. "It is used when a lower purity and lower volumes of oxygen can be used," Bilek added. This is the first time in Canada that VPSA-produced oxygen will be used in high-consistency oxygen delignification.

It is cost-effective. It provides on-site oxygen at a cost lower than a cryogenic plant or oxygen shipped by truck. Bilek noted that the cryogenic process needs 99% pure oxygen. VPSA's primary use has been in the pulp and paper industry because of the good fit.

Praxair has five oxygen plants in pulp mills in Ontario and B.C. Total capacity is 400 t/d and the oxygen is used for bleaching, waste water treatment, and liquor oxidation.

The plants are fully automated, monitored at the mill but operated from Praxair's closest production facility. Praxair maintains ownership of the plant. Construction of the plant is expected to be completed this month.

Praxair's involvement in the pulp and paper industry has not been large. "It has not been one of our top three or four sectors," Bilek said. "We have a much larger presence in the oil and gas and chemical industries."

However, the campaign against chlorine has not hurt Praxair. Technological developments have also helped open the door for Praxair. The industry is clearly looked upon now as a "market opportunity", according to Bilek, to replace chlorine by oxygen. "We see a lot of growth here."
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Title Annotation:Praxair Inc., formerly Linde Canada Inc.
Author:Rodden, Graeme
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Date:Feb 1, 1993
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