Emerging Markets


The pervasiveness of industrial and scientific gases throughout the energy, environmental, medical, biotechnology, chemical and manufacturing sectors affords the unprecedented opportunity for industrial gas companies and distributors to participate in a variety of new growth segments. It has become necessary to evaluate current competencies and make dramatic moves to add to current technology and service platforms in order to accommodate the dynamic needs of these markets.

Recognizing that time-to-market requirements are accelerating and that it is no longer financially feasible to domicile all necessary research and development resources to address diverse market needs, industrial gas companies should seriously consider open and collaborative innovation with both small and large technology partners. Partnerships among gas companies, technology partners and independent distributors can provide the full range of products and services to support customers.

Specialized Materials for Photovoltaics/Solar Applications
The keen focus on renewable energy by the Obama administration offers many opportunities for industrial gas suppliers and distributors to provide a wide range of materials and services for this emerging market. One example is the photovoltaic/solar sector. As new companies and ventures emerge to manufacture solar panels for use in commercial and residential applications, they become extremely dependent on suppliers to provide the necessary materials to install and scale-up their manufacturing facilities.

While many of the compounds required in the area of thin-film solar photovoltaics are highly value-added and specialized, such as germane, hydrogen selenide, silane and nitrogen trifluoride, there are basic items required to support these growing customers. For example, bulk quantities of hydrogen and nitrogen are needed to support the thin film chemical vapor deposition processes used to make the panels. In addition, the build-out of these facilities and manufacturing plants requires welding gases and supplies, high purity gas handling equipment, safety and abatement equipment, and a variety of site services to keep the operations running efficiently and safely.

There are additional basic and infrastructural needs of this new breed of customer. Industrial gas manufacturers may want to explore partnerships with companies that can provide the innovative, on-site production of hydrogen, whether small generators, small plants, or eventually pipelines and larger plants. In some cases, these emerging solar panel manufacturers will require the services of a local independent distributor to handle the day-to-day facility needs in the areas of welding and manufacturing.

Since many of these start-up companies may be in the position of using high pressure, hazardous gases for the first time, technical assistance and support will be necessary to assist them in maintaining a safe and productive work environment.

Leverage Resources
Given the depth and breadth of needs, from very basic to highly specialized requirements, partnerships among those of industrial gas companies, specialized technology and materials providers, and local independent distributors may be the right answer to meet these leading edge companies’ requirements for rapid start-up, scale-up to higher mega-watt production, and fast, safe, and on-the-spot service and assistance. To achieve growth in emerging markets and applications requires a collaborative partnership, surely a win/win for all parties in leveraging scarce resources and developing technology solutions based on a keen understanding of market needs.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
66b_RickKowey Rick Kowey
Rick Kowey is executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Matheson Tri-Gas, Inc., headquartered in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, and on the Web at www.matheson-trigas.com.