helium.jpgProducers of picks and shovels had a field day in the 1849 Gold Rush. The latter-day equivalent in China's industrial boom is helium.

Soaring demand for helium has led BOC, the industrial gases giant, to open a new distribution centre at Suzhou, its largest helium facility in the country.

China is one of BOC's fastest growing helium markets. Demand has grown at an annual rate of 16% during the last five years, driven by scientific and medical applications, such as magnetic resonance imaging and nuclear magnetic resonance , as well as hi-tech applications like optical fibre and semiconductor manufacturing.

BOC claims to have been the first western industrial gases company to invest in China, back in 1987. Since then, BOC has invested some $600m in the country, where it has 25 joint ventures and wholly-owned companies. Go here for more background.

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