ST. LOUIS (Sept. 29, 2005) — Praxair Distribution, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Praxair, Inc. (NYSE:PX), announced today that it plans to start interim operations at its industrial gases facility on Chouteau Ave., St. Louis, while it continues to work with the City of St. Louis on locating an alternate site.
Praxair has not conducted any business at the site since a major fire occurred there on the afternoon of Friday, June 24. The fire is believed to have been caused by a mechanical failure on a gas cylinder, possibly as the result of a malfunctioning safety relief valve. Praxair does not manufacture cylinders or valves.
“Praxair will be implementing certain additional operating precautions at this site to ensure that there cannot be another incident of this kind,” said Wayne Yakich, president of Praxair Distribution. “These have been made as the result of a careful review of all aspects of the fire as well as a thorough safety review.”
As a result of this review, Praxair will be installing various fire barriers in its propane and propylene cylinder storage areas across the United States and Canada. These cylinder storage facilities are designed to prevent the spread of fire should one occur for any reason.
At the Chouteau Ave. site, Praxair will take the additional step of ensuring that all cylinders containing acetylene, propane, propylene and other flammable gases that are stored on the site are placed in the former acetylene filling room. This filling room is protected by a deluge fire suppression system designed to shower the entire area with massive quantities of water should a fire be detected. This deluge system was in place at the time of the fire on June 24 and functioned as intended, protecting the cylinders stored there.
“Since June 24, Praxair has been serving its customers in the St. Louis area by using a number of alternate sites and delivery systems,” Yakich stated. “However, this has been quite inefficient and costly.
“Now that the site has been cleaned and debris removed from the surrounding areas, Praxair is ready to begin repairing the Chouteau facility with work on the roof, the offices and other areas of the property. Once we have a building permit, repair work can be completed in six to eight weeks and the facility will then be ready for renewed operations.
“The plan to resume operations at Chouteau Ave. is dictated by the fact that it will take at least 12-18 months to establish a new facility after an alternate site is identified.
“Praxair is continuing to work with City of St. Louis officials and other local development organizations to identify a site that fits the operational parameters required for this business,” Yakich emphasized.
The business operations at the site would continue to serve customers such as hospitals, universities, welders, restaurants and food processors. Gases delivered to these customers include oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, acetylene and a wide range of specialty gases.
In addition, Praxair would reopen its retail store selling gases and hardgoods to its welding customers as well as its specialty gas laboratory. Also operating at the site would be Praxair Distribution’s national center for the computerized dispatch of customer orders on Praxair’s trucks. It is anticipated that about 70 employees will be working at the site, approximately the same number as before the fire.
“Praxair greatly appreciates the support it has received from the St. Louis Fire Department, Police Department, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and many other organizations during the fire, its aftermath and the cleanup phase,” Yakich said.
“We are also grateful for the patience and support of the people in the local community as we conducted the cleanup tasks.”
Praxair Distribution, Inc. and its subsidiaries and distributors deliver a wide array of industrial and specialty gases, equipment and supplies, technical expertise, and services to thousands of customers in the United States and Canada.
Praxair is the largest industrial gases company in North and South America, and one of the largest worldwide, with 2004 sales of $6.6 billion. The company produces, sells and distributes atmospheric and process gases, and high-performance surface coatings. Praxair products, services and technologies bring productivity and environmental benefits to a wide variety of industries, including aerospace, chemicals, food and beverage, electronics, energy, healthcare, manufacturing, metals and others. More information on Praxair is available on the Internet at www.praxair.com.