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Vol. 12, No. 14 Week of April 08, 2007
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

PETROLEUM DIRECTORY: Air Liquide’s innovations for Alaska projects increase productivity, investment return?

Employees of Alaska’s most experienced industrial gas and welding supplier, Air Liquide, are the ‘go to’ guys

Q. When was Air Liquide founded and what was its original name?

A. At 105 years, we’re the oldest industrial gas manufacturing company in the world. In 1902, our French parent company, Air Liquide, was the first to develop a viable process for liquefaction of gases found in the air. It was a collaboration of two men, Georges Claude, a passionate researcher, and Paul Delorme, a prudent visionary. Their discovery led to the creation of the industrial gas industry, which today is improving the productivity and safety of many manufacturing processes.

Q. Where is Air Liquide located?

A. Here in Alaska we manufacture and package our gas products in Anchorage and Palmer, and we have stores in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Kenai, Homer and Delta Junction. We supply and serve our gas products customers through a network of five additional independent distributors. Globally we’re in 70 countries on five continents.

Q. Who heads up your Alaska operation and who is on the senior management team?

A. Bob Cook is our Alaska regional manager, I am the regional sales manager, Kevin McDaid is administrative manager, and Dave Cushman is the rental equipment manager and welding technology specialist. Our main Alaska office and air plant are located in Anchorage, with an acetylene and cylinder maintenance plant in Palmer, Alaska.

Q. Describe any partnership arrangements and when they became effective.

A. We have no partnership arrangements.

Q. What is the company’s primary business sector? What services does the company offer?

A. We supply the secondary metals trade primarily with manufacturing and repair, but also the mining, medical, scientific, and food industries. Basically we handle anything that needs welding with everything – including the equipment to do the job, and any kind of gas, or gas technology. These technologies include on-site gas generation (distillation/filtration systems for oxygen, nitrogen, CO2, and methane); productivity enhancing gas mixes for welding; laser and lab mixes of any molecule, mix, or purity; water treatment and environmental equipment; as well as the standard nitrogen services, gas and field work for the pipeline and energy sector.

In addition to the field services and repair, we have a fully equipped shop for any kind of repair to any kind of welding equipment and a rental department which rents virtually any kind of welding equipment in the western hemisphere. In a nutshell, Air Liquide is the one-stop shopping place for any kind of welding equipment, bulk or minibulk liquefied gas, or packaged gas products in Alaska.

Q. Who are the company’s main clients?

A. Our clients are secondary metals manufacturers, fabrication houses, oil companies, utilities, hospitals, labs and food distributors.

Q. How many employees does your company have? How many in each of its locations?

A. We have about 63 employees in the state, and 40 are in the Southcentral Region.

Q. Describe your essential equipment in general terms.

A. We produce and supply bulk gases, acetylene, CO2 and dry ice. We have recently upgraded our air distillation equipment and storage and have no immediate plans for further upgrades.

Q. Is Air Liquide expanding any of its operations and/or locations?

A. Sixteen months ago we opened a new retail location in Delta Junction. For the time being we have no other expansion plans.

Q.Is the company changing any of its services?

A. We are providing more and more direct gas services for smaller nitrogen projects, and upgrading customer equipment to new and more efficient standards. Customer field service is a growing area for us, and is complemented by our welding equipment and repair departments.

In addition to being the warranty dealer for all of the major welding equipment manufacturers in America, we recently took on Milwaukee Electric Tools as a warranty station—the only one in Anchorage and of two in the state.

Q. What is your company’s main strength, i.e., its edge over the competition?

A. Our strength is in our people and our dedication to service; the corporate culture stresses the importance of the customer’s problems over any other. We have the state’s most experienced crew in this industry, with all but two salesmen having between 10 and 25 years of experience.

Air Liquide is confident in Alaska’s unique position in the world of energy and mineral production, and has, and continues, to invest in our infrastructure to meet our customer’s needs. We work with our clientele to assure the most cost effective, successful outcome; and in the end, their success means ours as well.

We also maintain an inventory of hard goods and other welding products that would usually seem excessive by Lower 48 standards, but here availability is an issue. When you need it, you have to have it. We pride ourselves on meeting that need.

Q. What new markets, clients and/or projects did your company attract in the last year?

A. We were recently awarded contractual agreements with some larger clients in the construction and oil and gas fields, and are working on experimental projects with customers to increase energy production.

Q. Has Air Liquide invested in any new technology in the last two years?

A. Air Liquide has laboratories in the Midwest, on the East Coast, and in Paris. The company’s commitment to technology and innovation has kept it at the forefront of the high-tech business of industrial gases. We pride ourselves on this dedication to innovation.

Q. What is the most challenging job the company has undertaken?

A. Lately it’s been this interview.

Q. What are the biggest obstacles to completing work the company undertakes?

A. We face each job with the understanding that it is the most important job there is, and that’s certainly true for the customer. The most difficult part of the job is handling logistics and scheduling with the usual limited budgets and staffing.

Q. What do you see as your company’s biggest challenge in the next five years?

A. The biggest challenge as I see it is in manpower and the “graying” of the workforce, both in our industry and in the customer’s. We have to keep the company profitable, yet provide the customer with the best service and newest technology at the lowest price. That keeps life interesting I guess.

Q. What do you see as future trends or opportunities for your company from events such as long-term weather fluctuations, resource development, etc.?

A. I am very optimistic about our future development. We all need to become more involved in the political process to make sure obstructionists don’t prevent future generations of Alaskans from experiencing opportunities to enhance their own lives in this great state. I want to rest assured that my grandchildren can remain here and work at jobs they enjoy. Beyond that, mining, oil and gas projects and the roads and infrastructure to support these developments will continue to benefit our organization as well as the rest of Alaska.

Q. What is the most humorous story from your company’s years in the business in Alaska?

A. Let’s see. Can’t tell that one…or that one… guess we’ll have to say we’re humorless, at least for publication.

Q. Does your company have an anniversary or other landmark eve coming up?

A. We host an annual summer trade show and barbecue in Anchorage and Fairbanks as a get-together for vendors and customers. We might as well celebrate our 105th year in business at each event. We celebrated the 100th anniversary and it was lots of fun.

Q. What is the average length of time an employee works for the company?

A. We have guys that have just come on board and others that have over 35 years with us. I would guess an average would be 20 years or so. There isn’t much turnover.

Q. What is your company’s safety record?

A. We are extremely safety conscious, with weekly safety meetings for every employee group. The goal for our program is less than 1.0 RFR, with a target of ZERO.

Q. Does Air Liquide maintain a website?

A. There’s a wealth of information at the company’s U.S. website, www.us.airliquide.com. We are currently working on increasing our Internet presence specifically for our Alaskan and Hawaiian operations and hope to have it up and running in the coming months.



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