Over the coming days, we’re going to be looking at my top 10 stories across the industrial gas year – and what a year it has been. We’re going to see hydrogen, synthetic fuels, ASU growth, medical oxygen milestones, and so much more besides.

Amidst all of the talk surrounding hydrogen, clean energies and sustainability, one could be forgiven for overlooking some of the related strands of these discussions.

Not least, the sheer need – and therefore potential – for large-scale ASU (air separation unit) growth to support hydrogen-rich syngas production.

This was the subject of my pick at number four, which you can read below:

Read more: Significant large-scale ASU growth ahead

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Source: gasworld

The core of the story: We are leaping ‘orders of magnitude’ from mega-scale to giga-scale hydrogen projects globally, and with that will come significant growth in large-scale ASU projects.

This is a trend that is in fact already in motion, with demonstrable examples showing the path ahead. It’s the verdict of Stephen B. Harrison, Managing Director of sbh4 consulting, and formerly of Linde with over 30 years’ experience of the industrial and specialty gases business. Harrison was speaking during Part One of a two-part webinar series from gasworld in October, sponsored by Evonik and exploring the nuances of the air gases business.

Harrison discussed the ramp-up of hydrogen production, stating that we’re leaping ‘orders of magnitude’ from mega-scale to giga-scale projects and that scaling up needs to occur for hydrogen production from natural gas and coal. Giving an example, he suggested the H2H Saltend project planned to support decarbonisation of the Humber industrial cluster in East Yorkshire proposes a 600 MW autothermal reactor to make hydrogen rich syngas.

“To enable 600 MW of hydrogen production, the air separation unit would need to produce about 1,200 tonnes of oxygen per day, that would make it one of the largest in the UK.”

When pressed whether we could, therefore, see significant large-scale ASU growth ahead as a result, Harrison affirmed not only that this is likely, but that it’s already a trend in-progress.

“Yes, and the ASU growth opportunity stretches beyond natural gas reforming and partial oxidation. We must also consider coal and petcoke gasification as a pathway to make hydrogen-rich syngas. Gasification has been used for more than 100 years to produce syngas. Gasification like autothermal reforming and POX, requires oxygen. The use of pure oxygen, instead of air, is beneficial for precise control of the oxidation chemistry and avoids costly flue-gas de-NOx systems.”

“It also makes the integration of carbon capture and storage more cost-effective because the system can be much smaller due to the avoidance of processing thousands of tonnes of nitrogen from the air.”

It’s been a year of new air gases or ASU capacity announcements, seemingly across the globe, and if this story is anything to go by, then there could be much more to come going forward.