Here at Air Liquide America Specialty Gases we’re adding value to our product by mounting a GPS device on top of every high-pressure cylinder of gas we sell. Beside getting great gas, you’ll always be able to find your way…

Seriously, except for our DATAL ALert™ system that can use GPS to tell you where your cylinders are located (which can be mighty helpful for customers who have dozens of cylinders spread over multiple locations) global positioning satellites have nothing to do with our specialty and industrial gases.

Pictured above is one of the posters being hung throughout each of our 30-some facilities in North America. Like it says: We want to “drive a perfect customer experience.” In our minds the GPS acronym stands for a good deal more than navigating via satellite. It stands for Great Products & Service. We’ve adopted it as our mantra for 2012 and beyond.

GPS embodies our intention to deliver the very best specialty and industrial gases available. This perception from a customer’s standpoint, not ours—big difference that makes all the difference.

In an age in which we routinely use GPS in our cars and on our smartphones, ALASG Team members are using a different kind of GPS to navigate our path toward greater success as the world leader in gases for industry, health and the environment. From operations personnel in our fill plants, to drivers trucking our products, to service specialists helping customers, to administrators preparing invoices, and even to yours truly, a MarCom guy who thinks up this stuff, we’re all about GPS.

Great Products & Service… it’s how we roll.

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Introducing 72.2 Certified ZAM™ from Air Liquide America Specialty Gases. This amazing new product is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a loco….

…okay, maybe not so much.

It’s just that I’m sitting here in my comfy new leather recliner (always wanted one), and with the spirit of holidays and vacation days still upon me, it’s easy to… well, get a tad carried away.

The reality is that if you use ZAM, you won’t be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. I suspect you already knew that. BTW the name ZAM stands for “zero air material.” It basically comes in two different flavors: zero air and zero nitrogen. And if you’re an acid rain utility, you must use one or the other (some use air and some prefer nitrogen)—basically because the EPA says you must.

It’s all there in 40 CFR Part 75, which calls for a continuous emissions monitoring system (CEMs) to be exposed to what they call zero air material. This in order to qualify the accuracy of the monitoring instrument. Part 75.21 states that calibration gases used must meet characteristics that are delineated in 40 CFR Part 72.2.

Sound complicated? It’s not really, except that some CEMs users use standard EPA protocol mixtures thinking this will satisfy the requirement. Trouble is, this practice can lead to inaccurate Imagecalibration due to biased zero readings arising from contamination in the mixture. And inaccurate calibration leads to inaccurate emissions measurement and reporting—which, as we all know, is definitely not a good thing.

The bottom line: to minimize the likelihood of faulty CEMs calibration, it’s better to use a zero material that is certified to feature all of the low contaminant levels that are specified in 40 CFR Part 72.2. Umm…. that would be Scott™ brand ZAM from Air Liquide America Specialty Gases. Who else? While you won’t be leaping any higher, and you may not exactly be leaping for joy at the guaranteed purity of this stuff, you will be protecting and defending your CEMs against biased zero readings.

Once again, it’s Air Liquide’s Scott brand gas mixtures to the rescue!

When I say high, I mean really high… as in 100,000-feet-above-Pennsylvania-high. That’s way up there into the Stratosphere, above 75% of Earth’s atmosphere. Today, students of the Bergen County Technical School in New Jersey plan to launch high altitude weather balloons filled with ALPHAGAZ™ helium donated by our specialty gases group, Air Liquide America Specialty Gases. Despite dismal and soggy weather, the launch is scheduled to take place at the Pocono Raceway in up state Pennsylvania.

This is part of a program called Project Aether that was founded and is directed by Dr. Ben Longmier of the University of Houston. This unique hands-on program gets students excited about and involved in space exploration while teaching them concepts of physics as well as techniques in experimental research.

Aether BTW, is from Greek mythology, thought to be where the gods lived and that which they breathed, analogous to the the air that mere mortals breathed. Aether was also personified as the god of sky, and was thought to be the son of Erebus, god of darkness and shadow, who married his sister, Nyx, goddess of the night.

The balloons sent aloft typically carry a high definition camera to record the spectacular view from on high.

Photos are reproduced here courtesy of Dr. Longmier and Project Aether.


The tag line that we adopted when we formed our American specialty gases group within the larger worldwide Air Liquide organization is Molecules that Matter. We felt it summed up what Air Liquide America Specialty Gases is all about: providing meticulously analyzed measures of certain molecules in the form of pure gases or specialty gas mixtures.

In addition to our preoccupation with gas molecules–being diligent about what we do and don’t put into a cylinder (think impurities, the fewer the better)–we’re also passionate about safety. This begins with the safety of our employees and extends to the communities in which our facilities are located, as well as to the safety of our customers.

Not to prove a point, but I took the photo at left showing part of the parking lot at our corporate HQ in Plumsteadville, PA. If you peer through the trees, you’ll notice that all the vehicles have been backed in to their parking slots.

No accident–this. Studies indicate that a driver of a vehicle is more likely to run into something/someone while backing out of a parking space versus heading out of it. Obvious solution: back in to the spot to eliminate the need to back out of it.

In the scheme of things however, parking lot fender-benders are a minor concern when compared to accidents while handling specialty gases. No doubt about it: gases that are pumped into a steel or aluminum container and compressed to the tune of 2,000 or more pounds of pressure per square inch are not to be handled casually. The cylinders alone can weigh well over a hundred pounds. When knocked over, they can break a bone in a New York minute. And if a cylinder itself is somehow compromised due to misuse or improper handling… um, you don’t want to know what can happen.

Actually, if you handle compressed specialty gases, you probably do want to know. So we recently completed a training video that teaches you how to safely handle compressed gas cylinders. Below is a brief preview I put together that we posted on YouTube. The actual DVD runs about 17 minutes and may be obtained by visiting our website at ALspecialtygases.com.

To help further promote safe handling of compressed specialty gases among our customers, our Equipment Specialists perform what we call i-SEE safety audits. Being a creative right-brainer, I find our equipment folks to be a smidge on the geeky, techie side, but that’s a good thing actually. When you’re dealing with often caustic gases under high pressure, the last thing you want to do is to adopt a cavalier attitude about handling them. During these audits, they inspect a customer’s gas distribution system and general cylinder handling and storage procedures in order to identify: 1) Possible safety hazards, and; 2) Measures by which the performance and efficiency of the system might be improved.

Economic pressures being what they are, just about every company is struggling to reduce costs while maintaining the best possible handle on risk management. An i-SEE audit from ALASG can therefore prove to be a big help in this regard. As a bonus, as part of our audit, we present a copy of this video and review it with the customer’s personnel who handle the gases.

My first car after I graduated from college–one that belonged to me and wasn’t borrowed from mom–was a second-hand 1967 Oldsmobile Delta 88 two-door hardtop. I bought it on the recommendation of my father, with twelve-hundred borrowed bucks from my grandmother (whose last name ironically enough was Buck). His car salesman buddy had told him he’d just taken a “clean” trade-in from a lady who was divorcing her carousing, no-good-bum of a husband. She was only getting rid of it, the car not the no-good-bum of a husband, because she wanted a smaller car that was easier to park. That’s how the story went anyway. Pictured above is the artwork from a vintage 1960s ad for the Oldsmobile 88 which had graced the pages of Life weekly magazine before it disappeared from newsstands in 1972, the same year I bought the car.

Judging by the smiling and contented looking couple in the illustration, clearly readers of Life were meant to discern that owning this expansive assemblage of Detroit steel was, in all its fashionable splendor, the key to a happy marriage. Either that or when a couple had arrived at that elusive station in life of being both well-established and happy, parking an Olds 88 in the driveway was simply de rigueur (the Olds 98 was reserved for folks who were more mature–mature sounds politically less offensive than older– and perhaps a tad more discriminating as well). Maybe this was the real reason why the previous owner of my car, being newly divorced, had decided an 88 was no longer the right car for her. I wonder… a little… but mostly the ad makes me wonder when hats are going to come back into fashion for the ladies. Aren’t they overdue?

My five-year-old 88 looked similar to the one shown in the inset. It was Tahoe Turquoise with a black vinyl top and matching black interior. I added amber-colored fog lights, which were all the rage, and side marker lights front and rear, all of which were buggers to wire into the electrical system, plus a pair of in-door speakers that could better handle cranked-up Doobie Brothers tunes on the AM radio. Though it was a gas guzzler by today’s standards, in my father’s words as I recall them, the car was affordable, sensible and comfortable. I have to admit it ran like a dream. Still, that was little consolation for not being able to cruise about town in wheels that, in my mind, would have been more befitting a recent Penn State graduate… wheels like, say, my girlfriend’s ’67 red Mustang convertible (okay so the pony was a rattle trap and it leaked in the rain, but after all, there are always trade-offs in life are there not?).

I remember picking up my GF one particular Friday evening. I was running a little late because I’d stopped for gas at the new Getty gas station on the way to her place. At a time when other stations were selling three grades of gas, and Sunoco was selling their “Blue Sunoco” product that supposedly could be blended right there at the pump, Getty had gone premium only. So after I explained to my GF why I was late, she asked how much I’d paid for the premium gas. I said, “Thirty (slight pause) nine.”

“OMG!” she exlaimed. “39 cents a gallon? Are you crazy?” As I recall, regular at that time was selling for 28 or 29 cents at other stations.

“No, thirty POINT nine. Who do you think I am, Rockefeller?” I said.

Young folks today have a difficult time imagining this. Thirty cents and nine-tenths: put those numbers up on the sign at your local gas station and see if you don’t attract a gas line that stretches as far as the eye can see. Who came up with that tenths-of-a-cent thing anyway? I suppose it made sense when gasoline sold for mere pennies per gallon, but now that it’s priced in dollars (and lots of ‘em), wouldn’t it make sense to drop this tenths-of-a-cent nonsense?

Gas guzzler though it may have been, I wouldn’t have classified my 88 as being a high-performance machine, like so many of the muscle cars of that era that every young man lusted after. I’d’ve done just about anything to drive a ’67 GTO convertible, with red pin stripe Tiger Paws wrapped around Krager mag wheels. Nonetheless, my ride did have a thirst for premium high octane go-juice. Oh, how that 350 cubic-inch Rocket V8 did purr when I fed it the good stuff. That was okay with me though because I rather thought of myself as a premium kinda guy, and at 30.9 cents a gallon, it was a splurge a guy who was still living at home and working a low-paying entry level job could afford. It was a couple of pennies cheaper than “putting a tiger in my tank” with Esso Extra. Besides, I liked the Getty TV commercial in which an army of ‘Getty Guys’, replete in their crisp service attendant uniforms, and led by a line of tank trucks, march across a long open bridge spanning a scenic gorge while whistling the tune from Bridge Over the River Kwai.

Incidentally, Esso’s 1960s Put a Tiger in Your Tank advertising campaign checks in as being one of the most successful and memorable ad campaigns of all time. Esso stations (now ExxonMobile–who, I might add, is a valued Air Liquide customer) gave out little tiger tails that you could tie around your gas cap to proudly proclaim that you had a tiger in your tank. And people actually bought 9-inch and larger versions like the one shown. My annoying younger brother, who’d finally retired from wearing his stupid-looking black Beatles wig, had a 24-inch job that he delighted in smacking me with whenever I wasn’t looking. If I thought that darn thing might be among mom’s many mementos, I’d sell it on eBay, like the one pictured, and make a few bucks as retribution for his torment.

All of this was back in the day when few people pumped, or even knew how to pump their own gas. Who would want to anyway? Maybe on a pleasant Spring day, but seeing as how gas pumps were rarely under roof, when it rained, you’d be soaking wet by the time you’d pumped 15 gallons. Gas jockeys dressed for the elements. They would poke that nozzle into your tank and let’er ripe while they serviced another car at another pump. Weather permitting, they whipped a spray water bottle out of their back pocket to spritz and wipe your windshield (didn’t need no stinkin’ squeegees–and often leaving it more streaked than it was before they started). They carried a wad of oily, dirt-smudged bills and a pocketful of jingle too, so they could make change right there at your car door. Who knew about different prices for cash and for credit?

By that time the folks at Diners Club, American Express and Bank Americard had already envisioned ubiquitous use of plastic money, not to mention the colossal profits that would come with it, but I wonder, had anyone foreseen deep-water off-shore drilling? Had anyone truly considered the havoc an oil spill could wreak on our environment? It may have been smooth sailin’ in the 1960s for Esso/Exxon when tiger tails adorned gas tanks everywhere, but when the Valdez foundered years later, wow, did they/we ever hit a rough patch of road!

About the only spills happening back then were when the automatic shut-off in the pump nozzle didn’t work when your tank was full, causing gas to slop down the side of your car. My mom had a ’62 white Rambler (talk about impressing the young ladies in those wheels–arghhh) that was prone to this for some reason. It must’ve had something to do with having a funky bend in the fuel filler pipe or something. I was always being told to drag out the garden hose to wash off the brown gasoline stain “before it ate the paint off.” Other than me bellyaching about car wash duty, no one thought too much about spilled gasoline–except of course you knew you’d be smelling it for the next ten miles or so until it evaporated and the odor dissipated. That and cautious smokers waited a while before popping out their dashboard lighters to fire up a cigarette.

That kind of nonchalance, naiveté–or stupidity if you like–went out with dashboards of steel, like the one in my dad’s 1965 Madiera Maroon Chevy Impala Super Sport, and with kids dangling their legs out the back of a station wagon with its tail gate down. Fond but sometimes dangerous memories, those. As Bob Dylan wrote: The times, they are a-changin’. In some ways, the times needed changin’. Even as a kid I was capable of speculating how an unpadded, steel dashboard might split a human skull like a ripe mellon in the event of an accident–odd that auto manufacturers weren’t. As for kiddies half hanging out the back end of a station wagon during the ride to summer camp… well, it doesn’t take a whole lotta vision to see how that might play out.

Now, being in an age where a parent is lucky to stay out of jail for driving with a child passenger who’s not tied, belted and otherwise restrained in a seat that’s reminiscent of standard equipment in the Apollo 11 Lunar Module, when you talk about spilled gasoline–more specifically the vapors it gives off–it’s almost seen as being a downright hazardous calamity. This is so much so that the state of California is taking the initiative on this score, because it turns out that gasoline vapors invisibly muddy up our atmosphere by affecting Earth’s ozone layer. They’re also considered to be toxic to the point of causing cancer–ya know, kinda like those cyclamates they used to sweeten our diet sodas in the 60s. Who knew that swigging a diet cola, or gassing up your buggy could be hazardous to your health. I’ve seen warning signs on gas pumps telling me not to let my motor run and not to use my cell phone. I never saw one that said DO NOT BREATH WILL FILLING UP.

California’s Enhanced Vapor Recovery (EVR) program, which was first adopted in March of 2000 and is now into Phase II, requires approximately 13,000 gasoline dispensing facilities (commonly referred to as GDFs, but I still like to think of them as gas stations) to obtain permits, purchase EVR equipment and have the whole kit and kaboodle installed by certified contractors. Essentially it amounts to introducing a new generation of clean nozzles and other equipment that’s engineered to trap and contain vaporous emissions at gasoline dispensing facilities.

The deal is, the carbon adsorbers and hydrocarbon sensors that are part of the EVR equipment must be tested from one to three times each year to verify they are functioning effectively. This requires using a propane hydrocarbon surrogate, isobutane and zero nitrogen specialty gases. As it happens, Air Liquide America Specialty Gases supplies these EVR gases. They are part of our SCOTT™ brand of specialty gas mixtures and are available in a number of cylinder sizes depending on the volume of gases needed.

I don’t profess to know precisely how EVR works. What can you expect from a nontechnical guy who gets excited over an ad campaign that goes viral–BTW, an astounding 2,500,000 tiger tails were sold during Esso/Exxon’s 60s campaign. Talk about merchandising your brand! Truth is, I don’t really want to know any more than was necessary for my Marketing Communications Team to create datasheets for our EVR products. But don’t misunderstand. This doesn’t mean I’m not thankful there are  engineers, chemists and scientists out there–and within Air Liquide–who care enough to invent products and processes so the rest of us needn’t hold our breath for as long as it takes to pump 40 bucks worth of unleaded go-juice.

As they say these days, “It’s all good.” Truly, EVR will help preserve this beautiful planet on which we live, even more so when California’s initiative is adopted elsewhere. But ya know, maybe it’s my age, but I can’t help missing the innocence of cruising up to a gas pump, leaning out my window and saying, “Fill’er up!” Without experiencing a sense of dread over how much it’s gonna cost me. Without fear of gettin’ a snoot-full of toxic vapors. I’m missing the fun of blasting down the highway with a cheesy stuffed tiger tail flapping in the wind. I’m also a little bummed: where the heck is Oldsmobile now that I’m old (oops) mature enough to drive a 98?

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