BIRMINGHAM—Public Service Commissioner Jeremy H. Oden visited the Linde North America industrial gases plant in Birmingham on February 21 to get a first-hand look at how energy rates affect the profitability of industrial customers in Alabama. Linde North America, a member of The Linde Group, a world leading gases and engineering company, supplies industrial, process and specialty gases used by nearly 20 different industries across Alabama.
Encouraged by the visit, Oden said he enjoys these types of tours as it helps him better understand how energy costs affect the operations of Alabama’s large industrial companies and the integration those companies have across different industries.
“Companies survive by maximizing their profits and reducing overhead as much as possible. If high energy prices force companies to adjust their production schedules, not only are their operational cost affected, but so are the costs to their customers.”
Linde’s Birmingham plant has been operating for over 20 years producing and delivering oxygen, nitrogen and argon for customers in Alabama and six surrounding states. The customers include steel producers, hospital systems, U.S. military installations, NASA, as well as food and beverage producers and metal fabricators throughout seven states.
Recently, the plant received the prestigious certification under the American Chemistry Council’s Responsible Care® Program. “This program recognizes continual improvement in seven key areas: community awareness and emergency response; security; distribution; employee health and safety; pollution prevention; process safety; and product stewardship,” said Brian Blair, Supply Area Manager at the Birmingham plant. “These are all drivers for the highly efficient operation of the plant.”
After the tour, Oden said he had a greater appreciation of the importance of energy prices to industrial gas companies, who are some of the largest users of electricity in Alabama. “The industrial gas industry relies heavily on electrical power to run the generators that separate the air. If that power is not reliable and reasonably priced, something as critical as the supply of oxygen to health care providers could be affected.
Oden stated that the tour reemphasized the important role energy prices play in terms of economic development as well. “The Public Service Commission is an agency that plays an important role in the future of economic development in Alabama. The decisions we make can help reassure Alabama based companies and industrial prospects that the energy they use will remain reasonably priced and will be available when needed.”
Steve Castracane, Energy Manager for Linde’s Southern U.S. plants, said, “It is extremely important that we maintain a close working relationship with the Alabama PSC in order to apprise them of the importance of reliable and affordable electricity. At the same time, it is our responsibility to optimize the power usage of the plant which requires large amounts of electricity, not only to keep our costs down but to also minimize our overall carbon footprint.”