BOC steps on the gas

A strong financial showing in the first half of the year ensured that the UK‘s global gas giant BOC will be in good shape when it is taken over by German rival Linde.

The £8.2bn deal is currently underway and is due to be completed by the summer.

BOC’s interim profits rose by eight per cent, a result of good performances across its major divisions. In particular, its general gas business Process Gas Solutions benefited from higher prices, especially in Europe, to secure a growth in profit of 11 per cent.

And despite its overall growth being tempered by its UK performance, the Industrial and Special Products (ISP) business performed well in north America, Africa and the south Pacific region.

Buoyed by the solid financial performance and further contract wins worth £70m to supply oxygen and carbon dioxide to a major shipbuilding complex near Shanghai, the company said it was making good progress.

Chief executive Tony Isaac said: ‘Our gas business continued to grow strongly throughout the first half of the year with better volumes overall and good recovery of high energy costs. Meanwhile, our investment programme is gathering pace with an important hydrogen plant commissioned in the US during March and six other major plants to be commissioned during the year.’

Further evidence of the company’s growth in China came with the announcement that BOC and TongjiUniversity are to build the first hydrogen refuelling station in Shanghai. This project is part of the Ministry of Science and Technology’s national programme to commercialise fuel cells in China and is due for completion by the end of the year.

TongjiUniversity and Shell — which is funding part of the project — are working on the design, construction, maintenance and operations of the refuelling station. BOC will provide engineering and procurement services required to deliver the packaged hydrogen compression, storage and other logistics to supply the new station.

Elsewhere in China, the commissioning process for the first new air separation unit for the Taiyuan Iron and Steel supply scheme is underway, while in the US the hydrogen plant supplying BP and Sunoco in Toledo, Ohio, began production in March. BOC is also planning to invest in a new 700 tonnes-a-day air separation unit in south central Wisconsin to improve services to customers in western Ohio, Illinois and Indiana.

In the group’s BOC Edwards division, higher sales of semi-conductor equipment led to a six per cent increase in turnover and 32 per cent increase in profit in the last six months.