Sustainable business 2020
Messer’s strategic orientation
Messer Group acquired the majority of Linde AG’s gases business in North America and certain Linde and Praxair business activities in South America effective March 1, 2019 in a joint venture – called Messer Industries GmbH – with CVC Capital Partners Fund VII (“CVC”). Messer Group contributed, among other things, the majority of its Western European companies to the joint venture.
Over the course of the next few years, the joint venture will be fully integrated into the family-run Messer Group, thereby establishing a global gas group under the leadership of the Messer family. Messer Group’s regional operations are focused on Eastern Europe and Asia. Asia represents the world’s largest industrial gases market and is expected to have the highest growth rate in the medium term. Also with Messer Industries’ participation, in 2019 strategies were developed for the Americas and Western Europe, in order to sustain business success in the coming years. The common aim that they all share is to achieve safety, customer focus, profitable growth and fair payment for our products through a team culture focused on efficiency, success and motivation in combination with innovation and a highly satisfied workforce and clientele.
Messer Group and Messer Industries Western Europe are pursuing the goal of a strategically and technically reoriented IT infrastructure with modern, globally established standards. A standardized and flexibly scalable IT structure will create the basic conditions for improved business processes, for greater efficiency, flexibility and agility. Online collaboration and protection against cybercrime will also be reinforced.
Moreover, Messer continuously invests in a visible, modern internet presence that offers visitors satisfactory information and an easy means of contact. User-friendly e-services, online shops and search engine-optimized content will help customers find the desired search results and thereby make their purchase decision. In operation since October 2020 under the banner “Perfect Match,” the expanded digital platform now includes local e-services and online shops for hardware products such as pressure regulators and cylinder valves. Warehouse inventories and personalized sale prices can be displayed here.
Employees in the USA and Canada have access to a new SharePoint-based intranet for greater productivity. The new communication platform is compatible with mobile devices.
Among other things, it offers a search function, links to support tools and process support tools, and quick links to frequently visited resources and websites. The new SharePoint-based intranet solution will also be available in South America, thereby increasing networking opportunities for employees of our subsidiaries in both North and South America.
Since 2020, ASCO Carbon Dioxide has been offering digital add-on products to its customers in the dry ice production segment: The “i-Series Product Line” develops the potentials and benefits of networking and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) for their dry ice production units. Based on sensor components and state-of-the-art communication technology, ASCO offers services in the area of remote access, remote data and remote management services to interested companies. With this development – just like with the market launch of the new portable CO₂ safety detectors – ASCO is addressing specific customer requests.
Sustainable growth through investment
Characterized by its long-term operations, the industrial gases sector is establishing the foundation for sustainable growth, especially through investment projects. The following projects, for example, were initiated or completed by Messer in 2020.
Sustainable growth through investment
In October 2020, Messer started up its third air separation unit in Germany. It is located in Speyer on the grounds of the insulation manufacturer SAINT-GOBAIN ISOVER G+H AG. The oxygen it supplies to the company improves the efficiency of the burners in its glass melting operation. With this additional unit, Messer is reinforcing its presence in southwestern Germany. Supply routes to a large share of our local customers have already been shortened considerably. Rastatt-based Basi holds a stake in the unit and takes some of the liquid products.
Messer extended its partnership with Vertex Bioenergy and is building a new, fully automated CO2 recovery unit at its location in Lacq. The unit can be operated remotely and is part of Messer’s long-term corporate strategy. At the same time, the unit supports the expansion of the CO2 business in northern Spain. With this investment of about 11.3 million euros, Messer is doubling its future production capacity in Lacq to 130,000 metric tons of raw CO2 per year. Start-up is planned for July 2022. Vertex Bioenergy’s Lacq plant produces 235 million liters per year of biofuel made from corn. That makes it a European market leader in the biofuel industry as well as the leading biofuel producer in Spain and France.
Messer has started construction of a new air separation unit in Vilaseca near Tarragona. It will be Messer’s fifth unit in Spain. In the final expansion stage, its daily production capacity will reach 2,400 metric tons of nitrogen, oxygen and argon. The unit is being built on the grounds of Messer’s filling plant there, which will remain at the site: only a few tanks and one filling unit will be converted. The project is scheduled for completion by December 2021. The new production unit will be connected to Messer’s pipeline network to satisfy the increasing demand for oxygen and nitrogen to serve the chemical industry in Tarragona. The region’s manufacturing companies will also be supplied with gases – liquefied in tank trucks and in gaseous form in gas cylinders. During the planning and construction phase, some 200 people will be working on the project; after completion, Messer will employ more than 20 people at the new unit.
Saint-Gobain Isover has been active on the Polish market since 1993 with its own production of insulation materials made of glass wool and mineral wool. At the Gliwice site, oxygen is used to optimize the combustion process of the glass wool and mineral wool furnaces. In 2020, Messer signed a long-term agreement to supply oxygen from a Vacuum Pressure Swing Adsorption (VPSA) unit. The new VPSA plant is scheduled to go into operation in April 2022.
In 2020, Messer took over the companies of Air Liquide in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The acquired operations include a total of four on-site units for oxygen and nitrogen as well as a filling plant for cylinder gases. Messer has already been active in Slovakia and the Czech Republic since 1991. Prior to this acquisition, Messer in Slovakia had three-cylinder gas filling plants, one hydrogen unit and three on-site units. In the Czech Republic, Messer previously operated one air separation unit with a direct pipeline supplying three major customers as well as twelve on-site units, two-cylinder gas filling plants and done acetylene plant.
Messer started up a new unit that recovers and stores high-purity methane at the site of a fertilizer manufacturer in Hungary. Methane is a byproduct of treating the purge gas from the ammonia plant. It is separated out of the process and stored in liquid form with a purity of more than 99.5 percent. The unit has a capacity of 700 metric tons per year. High-purity methane has a wide range of applications: It is used as calibration gas for heating and combustion equipment, for example, and as fuel in aerospace testing. It is also used in an extremely wide range of applications in the chemical industry and in the manufacture of carbon fiber components such as brake linings.
In the course of installing an argon recovery unit in Slovakia – a project of Messer’s Slovakian subsidiary in collaboration with Messer’s engineering team in Krefeld, Germany – two argon storage tanks with a capacity of 200 cubic meters each were installed.
In July 2020, Messer in Slovenia put into operation our longest underground nitrogen pipeline made of polyethylene to date. The supply line is 8,028 meters long. The project was carried out in collaboration with Messer’s engineering experts from Krefeld, Germany. Along its course, the pipeline crosses more than 200 plots of land, one stream, one main road, and one natural gas pipeline before finally reaching our customer, a tire manufacturer in Kranj. The pipeline carries high-purity nitrogen from our air separation unit in Škofja Loka.
In 2020, Messer started up a new carbon dioxide (CO2) unit in Keyes, California. Messer is supplying existing and new customers in northern California and the surrounding regions from this new plant by rail. The new unit produces up to 450 metric tons of CO2 per day, which is used in carbonated beverages and to freeze and chill food products as well as in the electronics industry of the region. Messer recently began working with Aemetis, Inc. and taking raw CO2 from its ethanol plant for processing. Messer operates two other CO2 units and two air separation units in California.
In 2020, Messer started up a new air separation unit in Adel, Georgia, investing more than 40 million dollars in the highly efficient plant. It supplies gases to companies across the southeastern U.S., strengthening Messer’s presence in that fast-growing region. Our customers there serve the healthcare sector, produce food and beverages, manufacture metal and glass, and operate independent welding and gas centers.
The air separation unit we successfully started up in Claymont, Delaware, in 2020 is our largest atmospheric gases production unit currently in operation in the USA. Its investment cost was about 100 million dollars. The unit produces up to 1,200 metric tons per day of liquefied gases such as oxygen, nitrogen and argon. It also supplies gaseous products via pipeline to customers up and down the Delaware River. The Delaware Valley metropolitan region’s customer base spans almost all industries, including metal processing, the food and glass industry, chemicals, healthcare and the energy sector. Thanks to the latest technology, our unit features extremely efficient energy consumption – which is also one of the ways we help reduce CO2 emissions.
In 2020, Messer in the Americas started the construction of a new, state-of-the-art air separation unit in Indiana. This 38-million-dollar investment in Indianapolis as a business location underscores our strategic commitment to further expansion in the USA. The expansion of our production capacities will enable us to satisfy the increased demand for industrial, food-grade and medical gases throughout Indiana and the Midwest. We currently operate seven sites in Indiana and employ about 90 people there. With the new investment in Indianapolis, we are creating an additional 23 permanent jobs.
In August 2020, an air separation unit went into operation at Messer’s new production site in Kunming. The plant is located in the Anning Industrial Park in Yunnan Province in southwestern China. It will be operated by the subsidiary Anning Messer. With a production capacity of 300 metric tons per day of liquid oxygen, nitrogen and argon, it will supply our customers both in the industrial park and in the surrounding area.
To meet Xiangtan Iron & Steel’s increased gas demand, Messer started up a new air separation unit on the Xiangtan site. It has a capacity of 1,400 metric tons per day of gaseous oxygen. A new air separation unit has been installed in Ningxiang near the provincial capital of Changsha. With a capacity of up to 600 metric tons per day of liquefied gases, it is designed to meet the processing industry’s rapidly increasing demand and to reinforce Messer’s leading market position.
At the Shunde site, Messer has built a second air separation unit and doubled the production of liquefied gas to more than 1,200 metric tons per day. Most of the additional product will be consumed by the rapidly growing electronics industry.
In Thailand, Messer started out strictly as a distributor delivering gases by tank truck from China and Vietnam. At the same time, an application engineering department was established. Its specialists provided specific expertise to support a continuously growing customer base. Along with delivery of argon, nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide by tank truck, gases are now also offered in cylinders. A storage facility for liquid argon was installed in Samut Prakan, and in September 2020, Messer filled the first cylinders at its own new filling plant in Bangpoo. Messer now supplies medical oxygen to medium-sized hospitals.
Messer, together with the Alco Bio Fuel (ABF) biorefinery and IJsfabriek Strombeek, is building a second CO2 recovery plant in Ghent. It is due to go into operation in 2022. In combination with the first plant, which is already in operation, the recovery capacity is then expected to reach 160,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year. The biogenic carbon dioxide is a by-product in the process of producing ethanol from biomass. Instead of being released directly into the atmosphere, as is usually the case, it is captured in the two recovery plants and made available for CO2 applications.
Awards for sustainable management
After 2016 and 2019, Messer, the world’s largest family-run industrial gases specialist, has once again earned the Axia Best Managed Companies Award in 2020. Presented by Deloitte, WirtschaftsWoche, Credit Suisse and the Federation of German Industries (BDI), the award and stamp of quality recognizes extremely well-managed companies. As one of the award winners, Messer once again impressed the jury with its first-class business management characterized by high innovative force, a strategy focused on the long term, and strong governance structures. In justifying the award, Deloitte observed that Messer is not only a benchmark for extremely well-managed medium-sized companies, but at the same time emblematically represents the future of Germany as a business location.
In 2020, the credit agency Bisnode D&B Schweiz AG granted Messer in Switzerland a “Credit Rating Certificate” with “Risk Indicator 1” (which stands for minimum default risk) for the tenth consecutive time. Only two percent of all companies in Switzerland meet the requirements for that best category. The certificate sets Messer in Switzerland apart as a trustworthy, reliable, financially healthy and stable business partner. Bisnode D&B is a partner in the network of Dun & Bradstreet, the world’s largest service provider for business-to-business economic data.
Engagement in the economic sphere
Stefan Messer is a member of the General Assembly of the Frankfurt am Main Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IHK) and Chairman of the foreign trade committee. He is also an Honorary Senator of the Technical University Darmstadt and Honorary Senator of the Goethe University Frankfurt, as well as a member of the board of trustees of the Faculty of Economics and on the board of trustees of the China Institute at the Goethe University Frankfurt and a member of the steering committee of the Deutsche Universitätsstiftung (German University Foundation). In addition, he is a member of the board of the German-Swiss Chamber of Commerce, a member of the advisory committee for the FrankfurtRheinMain economic initiative, a member of the advisory committee of Mainova AG, a member of Commerzbank AG’s advisory committee for the state of Hesse, a member of HDI Gerling’s state advisory committee. He is also a member of the Friends of the German-Vietnamese University and sits on the board of Dachser Group SE & Co. KG. Since January 2009, Stefan Messer has been Honorary Consul of the Republic of Slovenia for the consular district of Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland. He is also involved in the association “Die Familienunternehmer” (The Family Entrepreneurs) and in the foundation “Stiftung Familienunternehmen” (Foundation for Family Businesses), which support the fundamental values of a social market economy, in particular free enterprise. Furthermore, Stefan Messer is a member of the steering committee and board of the East Asian Association (OAV) and Chairman of the inter-state committee on Thailand.
Messer Group is a member of the European Industrial Gases Association (EIGA). The Brussels-based association represents nearly all European companies that produce and market industrial, medical and food-grade gases. The association's members cooperate with the aim of achieving the highest possible safety and environmental standards during the production, transport and use of gases. Messer is also a member of the IOMA (International Oxygen Manufacturers Association), the German Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, and the German Asian-Pacific Business Association. Messer employees are represented on all governing bodies of these associations.
The Messer Group is a member of the German Welding Society (DVS e.V.). The DVS is a non-profit, technical and scientific association based in Düsseldorf. Messer employees are involved in expert committees, support research projects, and establish and maintain contact with expert groups in technologically advanced fields. The subsidiaries are engaged in various local industry associations. The Messer companies are also involved in organizations in their local regions. The following is an abridged list of associations in which Messer Americas is a member: American Chemistry Council (ACC), Compressed Gas Association (CGA), Chemistry Council of New Jersey (CCNJ), Texas Chemical Council (TCC),California Large Energy Consumer Association (CLECA), Indiana Energy Consumers, West Virginia Large Energy User Group, West Virginia Manufacturing Association, Pennsylvania Energy Consumers Association and Ohio Energy Group.