"We see significant potential for Mexico to increase its overall supply to the US market, which has historically relied heavily on products from Asia."

Gerardo Berea Montes

SPECIAL GASES DIRECTOR, GRUPO INFRA

June 03, 2022

Can you introduce Grupo Infra’s special gases (spec gases) business unit and product portfolio?

What is particularly interesting about Grupo Infra’s spec gas offerings is that we are constantly introducing new products to the market. We developed half of our currently available product lines within the past 10 years. Within Grupo Infra’s spec gas segment high purity gases account for around 30% of our sales. Next comes our line of welding gases and mixtures. Though a less common addition to a company’s spec gas unit, these products generate around 25% of our sales. In addition to these we also offer calibration gases, food and beverage grade gases, laser cutting gases, liquid helium, medical  (no oxygen) gases & mixtures, aerospace grade gases, and traded chemicals.

What would you say have been the biggest challenges this year?

It has definitely been a challenging year for several industries, both worldwide and in Mexico. As you know the automotive industry has been hit by a global microchip shortage. The shrinking of this industry directly caused a decrease in sales. Decreased demand for welding gases has resulted from the weak performance of the construction sector in Mexico. Lastly, our aerospace line is without question our poorest performing division at the moment, since this industry was deeply affected by the pandemic, though we anticipate this to recover next year.

Which of the industries you supply gases to have performed best in 2021?

In terms of sectors that are doing well, I will start with the CO2 we produce that is used for beverages. After this market shrank in 2020 with restaurants and bars closing due to the pandemic we have seen a considerable recovery in 2021. Similarly, Grupo Infra’s gases that extend the shelf life of food are doing extremely well as we experienced a shift in the food consumption behavior during and after COVID-19. This drags out the supply chain, broadening the scale of the market for a particular type of packaging known as Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) that consist of a blend of gases introduced into the packaging environment which increases the shelf life of a variety of products.

The use of laser cutting gases has also grown due to the demand for local production of metal parts after the increasing costs of freights coming from Asia. And finally, I would say that the demand of gases used for sterilization was boosted during COVID-19 and will keep performing well in the next couple of years.   

What role do special gases play in the supply of medical gases, and how has this demand evolved from 2020 to 2021?

Special gases are very important for the medical industry because if you want to produce a particular medical device or drug you have to use medical-grade gases. We have seen an increase in demand for medical gases since 2020, with oxygen being the most dramatic. Demand for medical oxygen has grown in waves that correspond with Covid-19 infection rates, and we expect this to continue into 2022 as there is increased need for this gas both in hospitals and for domestic use.

What is your outlook for the gas market in the coming years?

I see a few different trends unfolding in the gas market. Welding gases will present an avenue for growth in Mexico given the number of infrastructure projects that require this type of product. Additionally, high purity gases will continue to be important for the automotive industry. The demand for medical gases will not disappear, nor will the need for CO2 and MAP gases in the food industry. I also predict that grey hydrogen will play an important role in the short-term with green hydrogen being a critical gas in the long run. Ammonia will be increasingly important, too, as it serves as a carrier gas for hydrogen.

As imports from Asia have become more expensive, what potential do you see to increase production in Mexico to meet demand throughout the Americas?

We see significant potential for Mexico to increase its overall supply to the US market, which has historically relied heavily on products from Asia. Especially as a company that manufactures welding products, Grupo Infra has evolved into a very competitive alternative for US buyers. As a gas manufacturer, we also see the opportunity to supply various manufacturing companies with the materials necessary for their production processes.

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