The global industrial gases industry – and its role within broader industry and society – has evolved significantly over the last two decades. Its importance only continues to grow across end-user applications and walks of life.
Even in the context of decarbonisation and a clean energies transition that sees some consider industrial gases ‘dirty’ or conventional, the industry is more pivotal than ever; this is a business that’s cleaner, more progressive and more imaginative than ever before.
Likewise, the industry, its structure and its nuances are a far cry from our traditional view of it at the turn of the century – or even 10 years ago. Major mergers and acquisitions have taken shape up and down the value chain; familiar forces have been reimagined, new entrants have broken into the market, and the pace of change in business models, technologies and new normals has only accelerated.
Whilst many of the core pillars of the industry remain, or have been reinvigorated, it’s a very different industry in 2021/22 and gasworld magazine has chronicled this evolution over its last 200 issues. In that time and across that anthology of magazines, we’ve interviewed and interrogated some of the biggest movers and shakers in this industry – and here we reflect on that journey of industrial gas insight across the globe.
Issue 2 – Messer Group
After an intrepid first issue in April 2005 in which gasworld was ahead of its time with an exploration of the hydrogen economy, the focus in the subsequent second issue (May 2005) was an Interview of the Month with Stefan Messer, CEO of the ‘new’ Messer Group.
The interview marked the first anniversary of the restructuring of the Messer Group and its newfound independence. As we all now know, the Messer Group would go on to enjoy many more changes in its structure and footprint – not least in 2018/19 with its re-entry into the Americas region and the acquisition of significant assets as a result of the mega-merger of Praxair and Linde (now Linde plc).
Issue 15 – Air Liquide
A headline interview with Air Liquide’s Francois Darchis provided both the centerfold and the front cover for Issue 15 (July 2006), as the then vice-president of Large Industries Europe, marketing and R&D and Engineering and Technologies discussed the group’s quest to position itself for a leading role in the global energy sector – an objective that one might now say has been fulfilled.
Issue 25 – Cryogenmash
Still in its formative years and in an issue devoted to the Eastern European gases business, gasworld magazine got to grips with the up-and-coming player in the region’s gases industry, Cryogenmash.
“In a period of major consolidation within our industry it is rare to see a company evolve to be a serious new player,” gasworld reflected. Cryogenmash, famous in the former Soviet Union (FSU) for building air separation units and being a major cog in the Soviet space industry, was at that time doing just that – as an interview with CEO Dmitri Ermolov revealed.
Issue 27 – Indura
The theme was South America, the lead interview was with Indura’s Hernan Briones and there was even a four-page Spanish language news and feature pull-out as part of Issue 27. The design was increasingly progressive and in focusing on an emerging industrial gas market like South America, so too was its content. Indura would later go on to capture the attention of not just readers of Issue 27 but also Air Products, who acquired a 67% majority stake in the company for an estimated $880m in June 2012.
Issue 36 – The Linde Group
Moving into May 2008 and while we would not know that a global economic slump was just around the corner, there was further progression in the air for Issue 36 – the headliner for which was a flagship interview with The Linde Group’s Dr. Aldo Belloni and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Reitzle.
The interview was the first full-blown communication with the group since its acquisition of BOC two years before, while the group’s growing presence in the flourishing high-growth Middle East market was also in focus as a ‘new Linde Group’ was described.
Issue 42 – Matheson Tri-Gas
This was a memorable issue in late 2008 not only for its focus on the dominant North America gases business, but also for its interview with William J. Kroll, then president and CEO of Matheson Tri-Gas. Kroll talked about the history of what we now know as MATHESON, the merged interests with Japanese parent company Taiyo Nippon Sanso Corp. (TNSC), growing a global footprint, the so-called credit crunch, and even the dwindling distributor market.
Today, Kroll continues to be an eminent figure and a font of wisdom in the industry – as well as an Advisory Board Member for gasworld, among others! Spoiler alert: Look out for his celebratory column over the coming pages…
Issue 50 – Hangzhou Hangyang
Recognised as the largest ASU manufacturer in China and with a history of almost 60 years at the time of this interview in June 2009, Hangzhou Hangyang talked to gasworld about growth drivers, gas supply and its vision for the future. General Manager Mr Shao Rong MAO shared the company’s plans to complement its ASU manufacturing business and step into the gas supply business, a visionary move which affords greater stability and in turn, encourages even further development of its ASU technology.
Issue 75 – Ceylon Oxygen
October 2010: The Linde Group announced that its offer to acquire 95.4% of the shares in Sri Lanka’s leading medical and industrial gases player had been accepted by its major shareholder, Europium Limited.
“Today is the start of an exciting future for Ceylon Oxygen,” the company’s CEO, Niran Pieris said in a statement. By 12th November, this key moment in the development of Ceylon Oxygen (COL) had reached its conclusion. Just months before it would look ahead to its 75th anniversary, COL had become a Linde Group member company.
And in an exclusive interview in August 2011, Pieris and Sanjiv Lamba, Regional Managing Director of Linde Gas Asia and newly appointed Executive Board Member of Linde AG, talked all about this exciting future for both Ceylon Oxygen and the Sri Lankan gases business as a whole.
Spoiler alert: Look out for more from a certain Sanjiv Lamba, still to come…
Issue 100 – Indiana Oxygen
Four generations, one Indiana Oxygen. That was the headline of gasworld’s August 2013 Interview of the Month with Indiana Oxygen, to mark not only the 100th issue of gasworld magazine but the pending 100th anniversary of Indiana Oxygen itself.
It had certainly been an illustrious history for the company, as it has grown hand-in-hand with the development and application of the industrial gases business through the years. And Gary Halter, then vice-president of Sales and Marketing, told gasworld readers where the company stood almost a century later – an independent, fourth-generation family-owned company, with the emphasis on independence.
Issue 123 – TNSC
One year into the role as President and CEO of Taiyo Nippon Sanso Corporation (TNSC), and Yujiro Ichihara had already been in at the deep end of a busy period of project and investment activity.
A long-term member of the TNSC family having joined Nippon Sanso Corporation in 1974, Ichihara was named president and CEO in June 2014. The appointment arguably spelled the start of a new phase of development for the group, a decade since its formation via the merger of Nippon Sanso Corporation and Taiyo Toyo Sanso Co., Ltd. in October 2004, and with TNSC still recovering from the effects of recent economic crises. It was also followed by TNSC becoming a member of the Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Group (MCHC) in November 2014.
In an exclusive interview with gasworld in August 2015, Ichihara discussed his first year in the role, the acquisition by MCHC, the market in Japan, and more besides.
Issue 133 – TrackAbout
Founded in 2000 by former Butler Gas Products employee Jim Glessner and software developer Tim Fusco, Pennsylvania-based TrackAbout, Inc. had already become a leading authority in industrial gas asset management by the time of this interview in June 2016.
The company’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions to tracking, managing and maintaining gas cylinders have filled a significant gap in the market since its formation, and helped to put an end to the loss of invaluable data that may otherwise have slipped through the cracks.
And no insights were allowed to slip through the cracks either, as both Glessner and Fusco described a shared vision in asset management with gasworld in Issue 133. Both Glessner and Fusco demonstrated a clear passion for asset management, with Fusco describing it as ‘magical’ to see the impact that right software can have first on a business process, and then on a whole company. This is an impact we’ve only seen proliferate in the half-decade since then, as digitisation has changed the face not only of asset management but of the industry itself.
Issue 134 – ASCO
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a perennial hot topic for the gases industry and its end-users, as we are all too well aware, and gasworld took a deep dive into this sector and one of its key innovators when it interviewed ASCO in July 2016.
Managing Director Marco Pellegrino talked all things ASCO, the know-how and experience of over 130 years of business in various guises, its then rebrand aspirations, and that ever-fluctuating CO2 market.
Issue 146 – Messer Group
Family. Sustainability. Responsibility. Independence. Individually these are all words that might grace the mission statement of any successful company at some time or another. But at the Messer Group they are much more than words. Collectively they comprise the ethos embodied within the modern-yet-time-honoured halls of the group’s headquarters in Bad Soden, Germany – and its operations far beyond.
They are also ideals that reverberated in another exclusive interview with CEO Stefan Messer as he recounted the company’s return to ‘independence’ in 2004 and its path of growth ever since – all achieved while striving to maintain its modesty.
This was a special interview and a special edition that came at a major inflection point for the global industrial gases business. It was July 2017 and Issue 146 (pictured, right) marked the mega-merger of Praxair, Inc. and The Linde Group that was generating such huge headlines at the time. As we now know, it would go on to become an industry-defining deal and not only was gasworld firmly at the forefront with its coverage and analysis, but players like Messer would go onto redefine their own footprint in the industry as a result. More on that later…
Issue 150 – Air Products
Tackling the rate of change in our industry was the theme as Corning Painter, an Air Products stalwart of more than 30 years and then executive vice-president for the company’s worldwide Industrial Gases business line, sat down for an interview with gasworld magazine.
Originally published in August 2017 but topically reprised a few months later for Issue 150 on the eve of gasworld’s North American Industrial Gas Conference in the December, Painter reflected on the abundance of change in the industrial gases business during his time working within it, and how he saw the future unfolding. Painter would ultimately go on to leave Air Products in July 2018 to pursue other opportunities.
Issue 161 – Afrox
“Our key goal is to be a thoroughly modernised business, one that continuously drives change, not one driven by it,” said Afrox Managing Director Schalk Venter in an interview with gasworld in October 2018.
Afrox’s distribution network and the sheer spread of its operations in sub-Saharan Africa was described as second to none, in a wide-ranging interview that explored the company’s rich history, its unique business model, and its future.
Issue 163 – Messer Group
As part of another truly special edition of gasworld magazine to mark the completion of the industry-defining mega-merger of equals between Praxair, Inc. and The Linde Group (now Linde plc), we published another world exclusive interview with Messer Group CEO Stefan Messer.
This time, however, it was arguably more momentous than ever before. Messer was interrupting his holiday to give gasworld one of the first full interviews since the group was announced as the purchaser – together with CVC Capital Partners – of substantially all of Linde’s US bulk business , and its business in Brazil, Canada and Colombia.
Returning to the Americas market after a 14-year absence would represent the major milestone in the company’s 120-year history, said Messer, who described the acquisitions as “certainly the biggest decision I have ever made in my life.” The geographic circle of the Messer Group was once again complete and, as they say, the rest is history.
Issue 173 – Chart Industries
Jumping forward 10 issues and on into late 2019, and gasworld was delighted to reprise its Women in Gases series with arguably the most topical and progressive of interviewees for its relaunch – Jill Evanko, President and CEO of Chart Industries.
It had been just over a decade since gasworld profiled various female thought leaders in our industry and asked if a glass ceiling existed where women in gases are concerned. Back then, it was noted that women were ‘undoubtedly the minority in the industrial gases business’ both in manufacturing and managing. Fast forward to 2019 and one could argue that significant progress has been made in this regard, with more female leaders in senior or executive positions within the industry’s top players than ever before.
Evanko was – and remains – very much foremost in that changing of the guard, appointed President and CEO of Chart Industries in June 2018. At the time of our interview in September 2019, it had been a busy first year in the hot seat. Chart had been in a process of transformation under Evanko, a strategic realignment that has seen the company better balance its business segments with the divestment of a non-core asset in CAIRE Medical and the acquisitions of both VRV S.p.A and more recently, the Industrial Air-X-Changers business of Harsco Corporation.
This transformation has only continued in the two years since, with Chart visibly positioning itself perfectly for the clean energies transition and movement towards sustainability that is so dominant across industry and society – and all under Evanko’s strategic leadership.
Issue 185 – Nippon Gases Europe
Another big player and another big interview – this time with Eduardo Gil Elejoste, President of Nippon Gases Europe, as he reflected on the company’s ‘arrival’ in the European gases business as a result of the divestments required for the $70bn+ creation of Linde plc.
This was another big strand of the mega-merger of Praxair and Linde told from a European perspective. The merger required a buyer for the majority of Praxair’s businesses in Europe and in July 2018 it emerged that Japan’s Taiyo Nippon Sanso Corporation (TNSC) – itself a Tier One player in the global industrial gases business – had signed an agreement to acquire the bulk of these assets in Europe for around €5bn in cash consideration.
The deal was perfect timing for TNSC. It marked a triumphant entry into the European market for the group, and the arrival of a new heavyweight in the region in the shape of Nippon Gases Europe. Elejoste reflected on this major milestone in his Interview of the Month with gasworld, as well as his vision for Europe going forward.
Issue 187 – Cylinders Holding
By the time of Issue 187 in November 2020, the world had changed irrevocably with the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Czech Republic-based Cylinders Holding was at that time one of only a handful of companies manufacturing medical oxygen cylinders in Europe in response to the pandemic – and reflected on this in an Interview of the Month with gasworld. Martin Litvik, Commercial Director, described the company’s unique role, the challenges of the pandemic, the company’s rich history and its hopes for the future
Issue 189 – Linde plc
Remember we gave you a Sanjiv Lamba spoiler alert earlier? Well, here it is: an interview with the incoming Chief Operating Office (COO) at Linde plc in Issue 189 of gasworld magazine.
Okay, so we have to admit it was not quite an interview for our January 2021 edition, it was instead a write-up of Lamba’s Official Opening Keynote address at our Asia-Pacific Virtual Event on 1st December (2020) – but it was the next best thing and we couldn’t let those esteemed insights fall by the wayside.
A Linde stalwart of 31 years, Lamba was at that time still in the role of executive vice-president of APAC, head of Regional Business units – South & South East Asia for Linde. He had already been confirmed as COO-elect from January 2021 onwards, and he has since been confirmed as the next CEO of Linde plc from March 2022, succeeding Steve Angel who becomes Chairman.
This was a big interview loaded with insights into the industry’s response to Covid-19, the exceptional times we find ourselves in, the megatrends shaping the industry’s future – and the industry’s role in itself shaping the industry and society of tomorrow.
Issue 193 – SIAD Group
As 2021 continued to unfold, so too did the big interviews and insights from across the industrial gas value chain.
This included an interview in May with Sandeep Gadkary, Director of the Compressors Division at the SIAD Group, to discuss the compression technologies of tomorrow and why he sees himself as a ‘change agent’. It was an interview that tugged at many of the same strings as Lamba had himself cited as shaping the industry – not least digitisation and decarbonisation.
Issue 198 – Tekno Valves
The journey has only just started: what a great sentiment as gasworld was about to hit its 200th issue and in many ways, still hitting its stride.
But this headline was in fact to commemorate a milestone at family-owned Tekno Valves, as CEO Rohit Behani reflected on the company’s 50th anniversary and growing reputation within the industry in an exclusive Interview of the Month with gasworld to mark the occasion. “Our journey of 50 years is a celebration of entrepreneurship, pursuit for excellence and commitment to safety,” he enthused.
Issue 200 – HOYER Group
Which brings us right up-to-speed here with Issue 200, and another big interview, this time with logistics heavyweight HOYER Group as part of our cover theme of Bulk Gases.
The interview came at a time when logistics specialists had been experiencing the many challenges of the aftershocks of the pandemic, from driver shortages to port closures. Furthermore, as Carina Meyer, Director of the Gaspool business unit within the HOYER Group, explained in her interview, logistics specialists like HOYER were already facing challenges priort to the pandemic.
“Logistics specialists were already facing some challenges even before the Coronavirus pandemic,” she said. “Brexit made its presence felt long before it was a reality, the scarcity of drivers already existed for many years and was steadily worsening, the mobility package of the European Union (EU) emerged after years of negotiations, and the final stage in February 2022 has endured a long lead time, especially because of its enormous impacts – particularly on the deployment of drivers.”
“We took significant and innovative countermeasures: automating processes, digitalising workflows, state-of-the-art telematics, the most modern, safest and most secure equipping of trucks and terminals, teaching and training.”
Meyer continued to explain how digitisation, as well as decarbonisation, are two of the biggest trends facing the distribution business today.