Middlesex Gases, with headquarters in Everett, Massachusetts, supplies medical, biotechnology and life science companies throughout New England with specialty gases and customized solutions. Serving this unique and fast growing market requires constant attention and Middlesex Gases is continually developing ways to meet the ever evolving demands of its specialty gas customers. Toward that end, the company opened a new state-of-the art specialty gas laboratory at its Everett facility in January.
At Middlesex’s new state-of-the-art laboratory, it produces high purity, ultra high purity, and research grade gases, as well as over 50 custom gas blends. Middlesex CEO Bo Martin said, “Our specialty gas customers are important to us and we have invested over one million dollars in a new fully automated plant so we can continue to guarantee precise and accurate results every time we fill a cylinder or tank.”
“As we are a preferred supplier of specialty gases and equipment for the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBIO), the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council (MassMEDIC), and BioCT, Connecticut’s biotechnology community, this lab is central to our Life Sciences business,” explained Ron Perry, Director of Sales and Marketing.
The new Middlesex specialty gas lab is capable of Automatic and Gravimetric filling of both non-flammable and flammable gas mixtures. While the gases and mixtures produced have not changed, the lab’s new technology enables the company to deliver product faster and at extremely high tolerance levels.
Shane Poole, Manager of Bulk Fleet & Filling Operations for Middlesex, said, “The tolerances for specialty gases are extremely tight, which is why we had to fill them one at a time in our old lab. We had to analyze each cylinder on a scale because accuracy to the gram is required. A half of gram can throw the mixture off. How small is that? As reference, there are 450 grams in a pound. With the new lab’s automated system, we are able to control the flow rate of the gases going into the cylinders. We can put in our first mixture, let it equalize, verify the weight, and if needed, add product to adjust the weight. With our previous pump system we could not do this.”
Martin added, “This process allows us to fill more cylinders, faster, which is one of the lab’s biggest advantages. We’ve gone from filling cylinders one at a time to filling seven at a time. The automation of the system also allows the filling to be done overnight or on a weekend. In a market like Life Sciences, where customers require fast delivery, this is huge advantage for our business.”
The new lab is 280 sq. ft. larger than the old plant and has an additional 2,100 sq. ft. of filling area. This adds a third to Middlesex’s specialty gas production capacity. It also more than doubles its analytical capability. “One of our biggest holding points for getting product out the door was our ability to analyze the gases,” said Poole. “In the old lab we only had one GC (gas chromatogram) and it tested one tank at a time. Now we have an additional GC and it can run multiple tests at a time. This added equipment triples our analytical capacity.”
Despite these dramatic increases in size and production capacity, the automation of the new lab allows the company to operate without additional staff. “Once the tanks are hooked up to the manifold and the fill program is set, the system automatically does the rest — it vents the tanks, vacuums the tanks, and then fills them to the proper tolerance,” Poole said. “This is a big time saver for our personnel.”
A combination of factors drives demand for Middlesex Gases’ specialty gas products. “The Life Science market continues to expand at a rapid pace,” says Ron. “This past year, with COVID, our Life Science sales obtained double digit growth. Right now our fastest growth market, after Bulk and MicroBulk, is our Liquid Cylinder business. We have aligned ourselves to be strategic partners with various consortium markets in New England. This has impacted our growth substantially over the past few years.”
Liquid Nitrogen (LIN) is a big part of Middlesex’s Life Sciences business and the company has been steadily investing in new equipment and technology to support that segment.
“We invested over a million dollars in purchasing new liquids cylinders for our customers last year,” Perry said. “In fact, this has been the trend for the past several years. The high demand for liquid tanks presents a challenge in both filling and delivering. The recent build-out of our new automated specialty gas lab opened up more area for our liquid filling operation. It gives us the additional space needed to meet the high demand for liquids from our customer base. On the distribution end, we have moved from 10-wheel box trucks to trailers.”
In addition to liquid nitrogen, Middlesex Gases sees Medical CO2 as a fast growing product in the life sciences market where it is used primarily for incubator applications. The company has been outsourcing this product. With Middlesex’s new spec gas lab up and running, the company now will begin to build out its own Medical CO2 capacity.
“In the first quarter of 2021 we will begin to bring medical CO2 filling in house,” Perry said. “We have already ordered two tanks — a 30-tonne and a 14-tonne. Our goal is to be up and running by mid-summer for filling cylinders and liquids with medical CO2. Once we are operational, we will order a 14-tonne bulk truck to accommodate delivery to our medical CO2 customers. We anticipate our growth in this market will be in-line with our current liquid nitrogen business.”
Tom Martin, Middlesex President, sums up how this million dollar investment fits into the company’s overall business strategy: “These improvements on the operational side will increase our overall efficiency, which will have a positive impact for our customer needs. As New England’s elite gas supplier, service is our advantage and our new specialty gas lab brings Middlesex’s ability to serve its customers to the highest level – that’s something of which we are very proud.”
Written and published by gasworld.
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