Hydrogen – a Market with Potential
Linde Invests in Production and Infrastructure for the Use of Clean Hydrogen
From generation and liquefaction to solutions for transport and storage and the refueling of hydrogen-powered vehicles – as one of the world's largest hydrogen suppliers, Linde covers all stages of the hydrogen value chain. The increasing importance of gas as a sustainable energy carrier offers further growth potential for the hydrogen business of the globally active group. Andrea Gruß asked David Burns, Vice President and Head of Linde Clean Hydrogen, about market potential and investments in the field of clean hydrogen.
CHEManager: What is the significance of the hydrogen business for Linde to date? What trend do you see for the future?
David Burns: We are proud to say that Linde is a world leader in hydrogen. Today we generate some $2.2 billion revenue globally through hydrogen and have $6.5 billion capital invested. We participate from beginning to end across the entire hydrogen value chain. We operate more than 120 steam methane reformers, around 1,000 kilometers of hydrogen pipelines and we have large liquefaction capacities both in the US and Europe. We even have the world’s first commercial high-purity hydrogen storage cavern on the US Gulf coast. It can hold 70 million cubic meters of hydrogen – a volume 27 times bigger than the Great Pyramid of Giza. So, you can quite literally say, hydrogen is huge at Linde.
"We aim at quadrupling our sales of hydrogen.”
With hydrogen, especially clean hydrogen, now taking off as a global mega-trend as a result of decarbonization, we expect the gas to play an even bigger role for Linde in the future. It will take a few more years for the market to develop its full potential, but we aim at quadrupling our sales of hydrogen.
For which of your customer industries is "green hydrogen" gaining in importance and why?
D. Burns: Transportation is at the leading edge today when it comes to using clean hydrogen. There is a lot of interest in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, typically for heavier commercial vehicles such as trucks, buses, and trains. We think this is going to be the area where a lot of clean hydrogen will be required initially. We’re well positioned here with the technology we have through our Linde Hydrogen FuelTech business – we have installed nearly 200 hydrogen refueling stations around the world, and this number is growing.
But development work is also going on in other areas, including steel, feedstocks, and refining. Refineries are under increasing pressure to reduce their carbon footprint, and adding green hydrogen to the mix is one way to support this. But ammonia can also be produced sustainably by using hydrogen derived by electrolysis, which – if renewable energy is used – decouples ammonia production from fossil fuels. This is a huge deal as 50 percent of our global food production currently relies on the use of ammonia-based fertilizers to increase crop yields.
And then there are power applications. In power-to-X technologies, hydrogen can be easily used as buffer storage medium to support renewable energy sources. Electricity from wind and solar energy can thus be used very flexibly and can be made available when it is actually needed. A great example of this is Energiepark Mainz, currently the world’s largest clean hydrogen plant using PEM electrolysis technology.
“Linde installed nearly 200 hydrogen refueling stations around the world, and this number is growing.”
Linde itself recently ventured into electrolysis technology. What are your goals as part of the joint venture with ITM Power?
D. Burns: With our strategic investment in ITM Power, a leading electrolyzer producer, and our joint venture company with them, ITM Linde Electrolysis, we have added electrolysis to our portfolio – which is obviously a major advantage given the direction the hydrogen market is taking and the growth we are anticipating. Both companies are currently pursuing a lot of interesting projects: ITM Power is in the process of developing the world’s largest commercial PEM electrolysis plant – at 10 megawatts – at Shell’s Wesseling refinery site. ITM Linde Electrolysis’ project pipeline consists of close to 60 projects in the EU with a combined capacity of 3.6 gigawatts – of which almost 600 megawatts are in Germany.
Linde has also invested in Hydrospider in Switzerland, a consortium that produces hydrogen via hydropower and electrolysis. This clean hydrogen will power 40 to 50 trucks with hydrogen fuel cells beginning in a few months, and in fact – as we speak – the first ten fuel-cell-powered heavy-duty trucks are on their way to Switzerland.
We are excited about these opportunities and we are confident that these and other projects that are developing will increase the uptake of clean hydrogen.
“With the joint venture ITM Linde Electrolysis we have added electrolysis to our portfolio.”
Are you planning further investments in the context of the national hydrogen strategies that are now being launched in many countries around the world?
D. Burns: Absolutely, we intend to continue growing in all important hydrogen markets. In July, Linde and Beijing Green Hydrogen Technology Development, a subsidiary of China Power International Development, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to jointly promote the application and development of clean hydrogen in China. We will collaborate on a variety of clean hydrogen initiatives, including hydrogen technology research and development, and the implementation of clean hydrogen mobility solutions during China’s inaugural hosting of the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Another recent MoU with CNOOC Energy Technology & Services, a subsidiary of China National Offshore Oil Corporation’s (CNOOC), is aiming in the same direction. Together, we will explore the option to invest in hydrogen production and filling facilities, and further the use of hydrogen in industrial applications, as well as mobility.
Speaking about hydrogen mobility, we particularly look forward to supplying hydrogen to the world’s first fuel-cell powered passenger trains in commercial service. After a very successful 18-month trial, Linde is building and operating a 1,600 kg per day hydrogen filling station in Bremervörde, Niedersachsen, which is expected to start service in early 2022. The station will be constructed with a scope on future on-site hydrogen generation using electrolysis. This is a world-leading project and we are excited to play a key role in it.
David Burns is Vice President and Head of Linde Clean Hydrogen and based in Pullach, Germany. Prior to this, he served as Linde’s Vice President for Hydrogen and Syngas Global Business Development. Burns joined Linde (formerly Praxair) in 2005 and, since then, has made significant contributions to the development of new business in the hydrogen and energy industries globally. Prior to Linde, Burns worked at Dow Chemical, where he held several business management roles. He has a B.Sc. and Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Leeds in the UK and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.