It’s been an extraordinary year for Linde. The world’s largest industrial gases group responded to the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic whilst integrating two complex, multi-national companies.

Linde managed to do this while safely providing a reliable supply of gases to its customers and achieving record operating margins, as John Panikar, Executive Vice-President of APAC (effective 1st January, 2021), tells us more about below in gasworld’s first A Christmas Twist: The 12 Days of Content article…

gasworld (GW): John, tell us more about what kind of year it’s been for Linde?

John Panikar (JP): 2020 has been an exceptional year and Linde’s employees have been heroes. They’ve been delivering products, servicing customers, filling cylinders, operating and building plants and taking care of patients. They have been doing this, uninterrupted, since the beginning of the pandemic.

GW: And the pandemic is, of course, the big talking point of 2020 and what this year will unfortunately be remembered for. What kind of role has Linde played in the fight against Covid-19?

JP: Linde has played an important role, on several fronts. Firstly, by increasing the amount of oxygen produced at our air separation plants and working very closely with local healthcare providers to anticipate demand and increase deliveries.

Our teams around the world have also worked tirelessly to install new liquid oxygen tanks and restart filling stations to meet the surging demand for medical oxygen. They have helped to increase critical hospital capacity by transitioning respiratory patients to in-home care.

We have done all of this while remaining vigilant and prioritising the health and wellbeing of our employees, customers and our communities.

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GW: Perhaps you could tell us about three of the bigger projects Linde has been involved in, in response to Covid-19, globally?

JP: There are so many examples of where our employees have gone above and beyond, but there is one which was truly exceptional. During the outbreak of Covid-19, our colleagues in Wuhan spent their Chinese New Year in an unconventional way. In order to ensure the continued product supply to key electronics customers, these colleagues lived at the plant for more than 60 days to overcome local quarantine restrictions, which meant being away from their families during a time when everyone typically gathers at home with their loved ones. Linde set up deliveries of food and personal protective equipment to ensure that this exceptional team had everything they needed to stay healthy and safe.

In the US, our Lincare team is playing a key role in helping to ease the burden on hospitals across the country. It is doing this by providing in-home services to patients with underlying chronic medical conditions and helping to increase critical hospital capacity by transitioning respiratory patients and others from in-patient to in-home care.

Finally, in the UK, we installed oxygen systems at six brand-new hospitals which were built to provide additional capacity in response to Covid-19. We delivered these projects from initial request to commissioned systems in mere days, compared to the weeks or months it would usually take. The six centres or field hospitals were built to treat up to 7,250 patients. The largest, ExCeL London, was the size of 14 hospitals and required a bespoke oxygen system.

Through Linde’s Global Giving Program and our businesses around the world, we have also donated cash and in-kind gifts to provide relief for hospitals, healthcare facilities and affected communities.

GW: Covid-19 aside, what would you say are the big talking points from the industrial gases year?

JP: Setting aside Covid-19, there have been several emerging themes for industrial gases this year.

Obviously, enthusiasm for hydrogen, its potential applications and the possibility of clean hydrogen has increased enormously, particularly in relation to mobility. In fact, Linde will shortly install its 200th hydrogen refuelling station. We see great opportunities here and have signed several agreements to collaborate with local partners and develop opportunities for hydrogen across Asia and Europe in particular.

We have also seen much more impetus around other solutions to address the environment. Earlier this year we announced Linde’s new climate change targets, including a commitment to lower our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity by 35% by 2028.

GW: What does business life look like for Linde in a post-pandemic world?

JP: Our motto is ‘business as normal’. While this is not always possible, we do have the infrastructure in place which allows us to continue operating in the current challenging times.

As to what the world will look like after the pandemic, I believe there will be significant changes in the way people work and live but am confident that Linde will continue to outperform and meet our customer’s future needs with innovative solutions.

GW: Where’s the focus for Linde in 2021?

JP: Our focus is the continued safe and reliable supply of gases to our customers. In addition, we see continued opportunities emerging from end-markets such as electronics, plus new and emerging technology regarding hydrogen.

GW: Finally, in the spirit of the time of year and theme of the series, if you could have one industrial gases related thing for Christmas, what would it be and why?

JP: The rapid distribution of new vaccines to protect against Covid-19, help get economies back to normal and drive downstream demand.

A Christmas Twist: The 12 Days of Content series continues tomorrow with an exclusive interview with Chart Industries.