ISSUE #57 –SOXAL provides the essential gas infrastructure, equipment and gases to the assortment of industries, including electronics, petrochemicals, chemicals, aviation, marine, biomedical, pharmaceutical, environment and healthcare.
In Singapore, it operates in 22 locations, making it the largest industrial and medical gas provider in Southeast Asia.
The late 19th century marked a time in history that abounded with innovation and revolutionary changes. In 1902, two visionaries of their time, Georges Claude and Paul Delorme, founded Air Liquide in France, the company that would not only revolutionise but pervade every facet of today’s industries.
With much foresight, global expansion and exploration followed, leading to the start of the group’s operations in Singapore in August 1911, operating under the name of Far East Oxygen & Acetylene Co. Ltd.
As Singapore developed, so did Air Liquide’s commitment and investment into the country to support its development.
This became increasingly apparent as manufacturing in Singapore evolved from the labour-intensive 1960s, to greater sophistication in the 1970s, attracting companies specialised in assembling computer parts and peripherals. This had broad repercussions for Air Liquide as the rising demand for gases that came along with the emergence of this industry led to two significant developments.
Firstly, the rapid industrialisation and modernisation programme led to the need for a more robust supply chain to meet its needs. Hence in 1975, Air Liquide’s Far East Oxygen & Acetylene Co Ltd and British Oxygen Corporation’s Singapore Oxygen decided to form a joint venture, and Singapore Oxygen Air Liquide Private Limited (SOXAL) was formed.
Secondly, there was a sudden uptick in the need for larger quantities of bulk and liquid nitrogen, as well as gas mixtures and special gases. This led to the construction of its first Specialty Gas facility in 1978, shortly followed by its investment into its first Air Separation Unit in 1980.
SUPPLYING GAS TO IT, CHEMICAL, AND PETROCHEMICAL PLAYERS
By the 1980s, recognising the potential of a growing information technology industry, Singapore began to attract companies to set up wafer fabrication plants in Singapore (a wafer is a slice of semiconductor material used in electronics). The effort was a major success and the first wafer fabrication plant was set up in 1984, followed by 18 others in subsequent years.
The importance of reliability and purity of the gas supply meant that SOXAL had to develop a reliable engineering system that could convey gases into the manufacturing process without interruptions.
Through this, the concept of Total Gas Management devised by Air Liquide was introduced to this industry, with SOXAL managing the entire gas supply chain, leaving the customer free to focus on their own business.
The 1990s saw another dramatic transition of another industry when Singapore embarked on the ambitious plan to reclaim waters around seven islands to form what is today known as Jurong Island.
The development and success of the petrochemical and chemical industry have allowed SOXAL to develop a critical mass of activities on the island, growing its production capacity more than 30-fold since its first modern gas production facility in 1980.
The end of reclamation works in 2009 also brought a flurry of activity with the construction of the first renewable diesel plant in Singapore. Its requirements led SOXAL to build a world-scale hydrogen production plant in Singapore, using steam methane technology. This plant is the largest plant in Southeast Asia. A 40-kilometre hydrogen pipeline was also built to connect the plant in Jurong Island to the renewable diesel plant in Jurong Industrial Estate.
SOXAL TODAY AND BEYOND
The permeation of many other industries in Singapore today means that SOXAL also supplies gases to many other industries.
In 2007, Air Liquide acquired SOXAL, which was the catalyst to new developments in Jurong Island, including the aforementioned hydrogen production plant, and new air separation units that began operations in 2009 and 2013. 2013 also saw the introduction of the innovative best energy plants installed for the electronic industry.
SOXAL is tightly woven into the fabric of Singapore’s manufacturing industry, having supported industries here for over 100 years. We are grateful for the opportunity and look forward to another 100 years of skillful needlework that will see us even more tightly bound and linked.
By Kazuyuki Sakata, Managing Director, SOXAL
PHOTO: Air Separation Unit Megahub in Jurong Island, built by SOXAL (Air Liquide)
Article published in the FOCUS Magazine “SG50” – May 2015