New gas plant planned for Hometown

Of The Morning Call

Air Products and Chemicals will build a new industrial gas plant at its Hometown campus so it can meet demand for a substance used in making semiconductors.

The company said Monday it has begun building a second tungsten hexafluoride production plant. Tungsten hexafluoride is one of the gases used to conduct electricity in microchips.

It's too early to say whether employment would be increased at Hometown, said Air Products spokeswoman Lisa Walsh. The company is not releasing the cost of the new plant, Walsh said.

While a slowing economy has hurt several of Air Products' markets, its sales to the semiconductor industry have been healthy.

And that's not because the semiconductor industry is booming. It's that tungsten hexafluoride represents a pocket of intense demand, said Christopher Crooks, an industry analyst with Janney Montgomery Scott.

"They just can't make it fast enough," he said. "It's a bet in the long term, but it's one of the pockets of tightness now."

Overall, it's a good move to increase production, he said.

Air Products plans to complete the first phase of the new plant by early 2002. The plant will produce 100,000 pounds per year of tungsten hexafluoride. The company will then have the flexibility to add 200,000 pounds more per year if there's enough demand, the company said.

The company's existing tungsten hexafluoride plant at Hometown was expanded in the third quarter of 1999 to produce 300,000 pounds per year. The new plant will duplicate the original.

While the semiconductor industry has started to use copper as a conductor, it will continue to use the traditional materials of tungsten and aluminum for parts of the chip-making process, according to Richard C. Kenner, a general manager in the company's electronic specialty gases division.

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Last modified: 6 September 2001