On first glance, the acquisition of Worthington’s cryogenic trailer and hydrogen trailer assets in Alabama might look like something of a ‘slam dunk’ story in Chart’s continuing journey in hydrogen technologies.
The company began the year by becoming a member of the Hydrogen Council, the now 92 member-strong CEO-led organisation that aims to position hydrogen among the key solutions of the energy transition. It is a member of the new European Clean Hydrogen Alliance via its Chart Ferox business, and just last month joined the Hydrogen Europe association.
“We’re committed to advancing the future of clean energy and working toward a zero-emission society through collaborating with our fellow members,” Chart had said in a statement.
In all of these organisations, Chart Industries is in the most esteemed company, with fellow members spanning key stakeholders across energy, transport and industrial sectors. And in the last 24 hours it’s been revealed that Chart is further growing and enhancing the company it keeps in hydrogen; as part of a new strategic partnership, it has just invested €30m in French hydrogen production company McPhy.
All signs point to hydrogen for Chart Industries, like so many others. Or do they? Hydrogen is most definitely the overt story here, and Chart says expected hydrogen-related revenue from this facility in 2021 is $15-20m. Upside potential looks like around $30m in 2021.
But the devil is in the detail of this particular announcement, and the closer inspection of that detail demonstrates that this deal is as much about another of the clean fuels of today and tomorrow – LNG – as it is hydrogen. This is about Chart further reinforcing its already strong capabilities in LNG and cryogenic equipment – another of the key narratives emerging from the company this year.
Take May’s announcement, for example, that Chart had become the newest member of the Australia-based LNG Marine Fuel Institute (LNG MFI). Formed in 2016, the LNG MFI is a growing coalition of companies committed to LNG as the primary marine fuel in the transition to carbon-free shipping. This is one of just many developments in LNG markets for Chart this year.
Then there was the news in June that the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in consultation with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), would allow the use of cryogenic railcars to ship bulk quantities of LNG from production plants to destinations across the US from late July.
This was a key development in the US, not least for Chart. Indeed, CEO Jill Evanko told gasworld the company would be expanding its railcar business as a result. Chart makes cryogenic railcars at its New Prague, Minnesota plant that can each haul 30,000 gallons of LNG, and Evanko enthused, “Not only will the LNG by rail order expand direct railcar business for Chart, it will further support our small-scale LNG efforts.”
Against this backdrop, the acquisition of Worthington’s Theodore, Alabama cryogenic trailer and hydrogen trailer (transport) assets appears extremely synergistic with this development in the US and those stated aims in railcar expansion. Evanko said of the acquisition yesterday, “Owning this strategically located site near the Port of Mobile will grow our manufacturing capacity for Chart’s LNG products including tender cars for locomotive fuelling and onboard storage tanks for marine fuelling applications and expand our repair, service and leasing footprint…”
For Evanko, great progress has been made at Chart since she took the hot seat as President and CEO in 2018. The company has been in a process of transformation under her leadership, a strategic realignment that has seen the company better balance its business segments with the divestment of non-core assets and ramped-up investments in its core areas of focus. We are clearly seeing the fruits of that objective, and in very quick order too.
For Chart as a whole, there is now a very strong and evident alignment with not just its core areas of focus – but the emerging energy markets that will clearly drive growth in the future. “We are excited about the foundation we have to support our customers in cryogenic activities, in particular in the industrial gas and energy end applications,” Evanko told me in an interview 12 months ago.
Chart is right to be excited; it’s not just a foundation the company now has, it’s a veritable launchpad into the clean energies sector and increasingly with all of the assets required at its disposal. This is the latest piece of that puzzle coming together.