Air Products
  • 60 years in the UK
  • 60 years in the UK
  • 60 years in the UK
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Air Products in the UK celebrates milestone

On 15 August 1957 Air Products signed a joint venture agreement with the Butterley Company which marked the entry of our company into the UK.

What started off as an office in London and a manufacturing site in Acrefair, North Wales, has become a multimillion dollar business with a proud history that we've all helped to build - whether you've been with the company for a short time or several decades.

One of our first customers was ICI, followed by other recognised brands such as Shell, BP, and the Royal Air Force. Equipment designed and built in the UK has been shipped to locations in many parts of the world. Over the years, our colleagues have met members of the Royal Family including the Queen, other well-known personalities such as James Hunt, Zoe Ball, and even delivered hydrogen to John Lennon and Yoko Ono. In the coming year, different activities will be rolled out to celebrate our 60th anniversary using one theme – team work – to underpin our celebrations. We will be sharing this achievement with our colleagues, customers, agents and local communities.

Launching the celebrations, Tim Hulbert and Peter Hagger said: "The key to our success is the dedication, loyalty and commitment of our outstanding team of professionals. This is all about celebrating what has been achieved and saying thank you to everyone that has played their part, and - in the true spirit of our business - it's also about looking ahead to another successful 60 years - and beyond."




Air Products entered the UK market

On 15 August 1957 Air Products signed a joint venture agreement with the Butterley Company and so Air Products (Great Britain) Limited came into existence with offices in London and a manufacturing site in Acrefair, North Wales.

Dexter F Baker, later to become Air Products CEO and Chief Executive, was seconded over from Air Products in the United States to become the first managing director of the new business.

It wasn't long before two important contracts were received for the first tonnage plants at ICI Billingham and Stear and Lloyds, Corby. 

Establishing Air Products in the UK paved the way for growth in Continental Europe.

Air Products entered the UK market


Expansion starts for Air Products in the UK

Air Products in the UK continued to flourish with the addition of new plants at Fleetwood, Lancashire and for BP at Hull, East Yorkshire.

It was in the 1960s that a contract was first negotiated with the Esso Petroleum Company Limited for the supply of nitrogen via a pipeline network to their Fawley Refinery. This contract saw our introduction into the on-sites business in the UK and for the first time Air Products was able to build and operate its own plant.

When Jim Friend joined in 1960 with a BSc. in Chemical Engineering from Imperial College, he was one of the first four direct entry graduates into the Company. This system of direct entry from University ultimately led to the creation of the Career Development Programme.

Expansion starts for Air Products

Moon Landing

The Western Mail newspaper carried the headline 'Space Age Firm builds a magic cold box', reporting that 'The Three American astronaunts were launched into space from Cape Canaveral by rockets fuelled by Air Products – now established at Roath Dock, Cardiff.'

Air Products made its first acquisition in the UK by purchasing Saturn Industrial Gases Limited, the assets were transferred and the operation at Sunderland became an Air Products depot.

Air Products expands into Europe

'New Factory for Bracknell' was the headline that made the news in local papers, trade and technical journals in February 1964. The opening increased the scope of activities by making available a complete range of welding and cutting equipment.

Entry into Continental Europe began in 1964 by winning the Sidmar Steelworks 'on-site' contract in Belgium.

The Commercial Motor magazine featured one of our trucks on its front cover.


The Commercial Motor magazine featured one of our trucks on its front cover.

Achieving business firsts…

In 1965, Project Engineer, Jim Grant, developed a standard design that enabled the plants at Ghent, Hattingen and Carrington to be built to the same concept.

Dexter Baker returned to the US. Under Dexter's leadership, Air Products' European operations became bigger than the parent company had been when he left for the UK ten years previously.
In 1968, Air Products Cryogenic Systems Division won the Queen's Award for the first time. 

Towards the end of the 1960s, Air Products acquired Oxford Cryogenics, an established firm of helium gas suppliers, and became the first ever company to ship tanks of liquid helium by air transport. 

In 1968, Air Products attended 'Brewex', an exhibition at Earls Court in London where the application of CO2 in the soft drinks industry was demonstrated.

Air Products attended 'Brewex


The impact of Air Products in the UK

An article in the Bowring Magazine which featured Air Products said: "The company's progress in the ten years between 1960 and 1970 was more of an explosion than an expansion"

The article continued to say "During this period also the company had been successful in gaining new contracts for gas generating plants, the demand for which continued to grow, both in number and in size… Suitable vehicles were not then freely available, so the company designed road tankers to do this very job."

A new design of road tanker

Adapting our fleet …

A new design of road tanker which included extensive use of aluminium to reduce weight and increase strength was introduced to meet possible future changes in road regulations. Over 60 drivers demonstrated their skills at the 'Driver of the Year' competition organised to help improve our road safety record.

New safety measures were introduced on LOX tankers after Carrington tragedy where a driver died of burns.

In 1974, Air Products added a 40ft long container and trailer – the world's largest liquid helium transport vessel – to its fleet.

Tank preparing for delivery

Additional Queen's Awards for Air Products

In 1972, Air Products' Cryogenic Systems Division won its second Queen's Award with a record export business of £5 million. The Charter for the Queen's Award to Industry was signed by Prime Minister at the time, Edward Heath.

Four years later in 1976, representatives from Air Products attended a reception at Buckingham Palace, hosted by Her Majesty in honour of companies that had received the Queen's Award.
Our Cryogenic Systems Division wins its third Queen's Award for exports.

Celebrations were held at Acrefair and all personnel were presented with a pen to commemorate the event!

Queen's Awards

Gas advancements at Air Products

Refrigeration World reported: "Britain's biggest single helium contract reached a significant milestone with the delivery by Air Products Limited of the 10 millionth standard cubic foot of helium to the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell."

The Llanwern plant was commissioned to supply the local steel industry. The gaseous oxygen storage tank measured 107 ft and held 13,595 cu ft.

The new 'wonder cutting gas' Apachi was launched in 1970, an advertising/promotion campaign was carried out to launch Coogar 5, Air Products' new MIG welding gas, in 1972 and a new gas, ASTEC, was introduced in 1979.

Llanwern APL's largest O2 plant

The effect of Air Products in the UK

At Berwick-on-Tweed, the Jus-Rol factory was freezing over 7000 Yorkshire puddings an hour thanks to a Cryo-Quick liquid nitrogen food freezer from Air Products.

Air Products announced an exclusive 3-year contract to provide 75 million standard cubic feet of breathing oxygen to the RAF, the Royal Navy and the Royal Aircraft Establishment.

The supply of Apachi and oxygen gases for the construction of the 20,000 ton jacket section of the BP Forties Field oil production platform was announced in 1976 and a contract with Esso Petroleum for the pipeline supply of gaseous nitrogen to their Fawley refinery was resigned in 1976, 15 years after the first one was signed.

Complete meal being frozen using the cyro quick at the 1975 cyro freeze conference in Blackpool

Expansion continues at Air Products

Our sites continued to develop, particularly at Cumbernauld, Glasgow where an air separation unit and heat exchanger box were erected in 1976 before the new plant was inaugurated by Scotland's Secretary of State the following year. 

A new demonstration and experimental facility (AR&D) was opened at Worksop, Nottinghamshire, the Shotton facility in Cheshire was built on-site to serve BSC with nitrogen by pipeline and, after a 63 tonne cold box was lifted into position, our site in Ellesmere Port opened with coverage on the BBC TV. Two major new installations at Carrington and Bracknell doubled capacity of oxygen and nitrogen.

This wasn't the first time we had made the TV, with our plant at Bracknell being the setting for part of BBC's Nationwide programme earlier in the decade, featuring the work of award winning photographer, Don Fraser of Academy Studios.

A new design of road tanker


Air Products' expertise continues to be recognised

The 1980s proved another successful decade for awards for Air Products. After being awarded the RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) Silver Award in 1980 marking the outstanding occupational safety and health standards at all its UK locations, the business went on to win the RoSPA Gold Award a year later recognising its continued safety record.

More Queen's Awards were granted for Technical Achievement (1988) and later for Export (1989), the latter recognising the expertise of the Air Products team at Acrefair, North Wales.

Air Products' Industrial Gases Division was also honoured by an award from the Chemical Industry Safety and Health Council (CISHEC).

In 1986, Dexter Baker, the man tasked with launching the UK business, became Air Products' third CEO.

Air Products' expertise continues to be recognised

Expansion throughout the UK for Air Products

Air Products in the UK continued to flourish with the addition of new plants at Fleetwood, Lancashire and Hull in East Yorkshire.

A new Applied Research & Development Centre was opened in Crewe, while the Air Products site in Fawley held one of our first customer open days, where visitors could see welding demonstrations and talk to our experts.  

Head office personnel moved from the offices in New Malden, Surrey, to the new Hersham Place Management and Engineering Centre and a family open day was held to celebrate the move.


Expansion throughout the UK for Air Products

Air Products engineers the world's biggest ever hydrogen plant

Towards the end of the decade, Air Products won a contract to supply high purity methane to five nuclear power stations, the biggest ever nitrogen unit was installed in the North Sea and Air Products scored two firsts by winning contracts to engineer the world's biggest ever hydrogen plant.

Air Products once again appeared on the cover of Commercial Motor magazine.

World Hydrogen Conference in Moscow


Expansion continues at Air Products

In 1991, Air Products' expansion plans grew further with the opening of a new packaged gases depot and European Technology Centre at Basingstoke, and the first ever on-site Helium plant in Deeside.

Acrefair continued to export ASUs across the world, with a 45-metre-long column going to Germany, the first ever export to Brazil and the largest cold box leaves Acrefair for Poland. The world's largest oxygen plant – ASU3 – starts up, engineered and designed in Hersham, built in Acrefair.

Commercially, we signed an extended contract with a second unit for BP, new contracts at British Steel's Port Talbot and Llanwern sites, and the CERN super magnet contract.

Air Products purchased an initial 25 per cent stake in CryoService in 1998.

Expansion continues at Air Products

R&D brings new offerings from Air Products

In 1994, Air Products launched the Liquid Oxygen service at home in Cornwall, a service that proved so popular that it wasn't long until the concept was rolled out across the UK.

Cylinder advancements continued with the introduction of a cylinder tracking system, an integral valve and the redesign of the guard around an integral cylinder specifically for patients with arthritis.

A new GEMINI gas service and technology package was launched at the Weldex exhibition at NEC, Birmingham.

advanced cylinder tracking

Air Products takes to the TV

Science took to the small screen with launch of STEM videos, LIN demonstrations were shown on the Big Breakfast TV programme and Big Breakfast presenter, Zoe Ball, was swept off her feet by helium balloons.

Crewe's Special Products Department achieved over 1 million man hours worked without a Loss Time Incident (LTI).

LIN Demos for breakfast


Air Products achieves more Queen's Awards

In 2004, Air Products' Spec Gases Group received a Queen's Award for Enterprise Innovation for BIP® technology. 

Used by thousands of customers in Europe, including the top five manufacturers of analytical equipment as well as the national laboratories of seven European countries, BIP® technology gives the customer gases that are up to 300 times purer than conventional carrier gases, perfect for a wide variety of applications where gas purity is essential.

To find out more, click on


Queen's Award for Air Products

Further Innovation Awards for Air Products

Our innovation was recognised again in 2007, when we received another Queen's Award for Enterprise Innovation for our Integra®cylinders and Maxx Gases. Integra® cylinders give safer, faster and easier welding. Safer – because there is no requirement to buy, repair or calibrate a regulator again! Faster – with the quick connector. Easier – As a smaller, lighter cylinder that is more stable and easier to handle!  

As part of a major change in the way oxygen was provided in the home, the Department of Health awarded Air Products UK Healthcare division contracts to deliver oxygen in six of the 11 UK regions in 2006. 

Later this decade, a field trial of the new 300-bar portable cylinder and trials of portable and transportable concentrators were completed.

Queen's Award for Air Products


Fuelling the country with hydrogen

Interest in hydrogen as a fuel started to develop as Transport for London announced it had awarded Air Products a contract to fuel 10 hydrogen powered buses in London. 

The UK's first hydrogen-powered passenger ferry took to the water in Bristol and hydrogen-fuelled taxis were deployed in London during the 2012 Olympic Games. The UK's hydrogen transport system took an important step forward with the opening of the country's first supermarket hosted hydrogen station. The Air Products' SmartFuel® dispenser is hosted by Sainsbury's, one of the UK's largest grocers, at its Hendon store.

Owned and operated by Air Products, this latest addition strengthened the existing network of hydrogen stations operating in the capital, including a newly upgraded, publicly accessible dispenser at Heathrow.

Driving the Future

Air Products revolutionises the cryogenics industry

Air Products acquired the majority shareholding in CryoService in 2008, completing the acquisition in 2012. This expanded Air Products' small volume solutions and created a new centre of excellence in Worcester.

In 2015 Air Products were awarded the contract to build, own and operate the world's largest industrial gas complex - Jazan. 

The first whole body cryotherapy unit is installed at Fulham Football Club in March 2017 aimed at providing an individual approach to cryotherapy.

Polarfitcare - Whole Body Cryotherapy

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