What a year it has been for the global industrial gas and equipment business. We reflected 12 months ago that we envisaged 2021 to be a year of change and empowerment, and so it has proven.

For all of the familiar pinch points we’ve seen and become used to, across helium and carbon dioxide supply chains for example, we’ve also seen great progress made in circular economies and decarbonisation – both of the industry and as a result of our industry.

And just in the last several weeks, we’ve seen two huge stories announced from the very top echelons of the industry; succession planning has been firmly underway at Linde plc and Air Liquide, respectively, with Sanjiv Lamba set to become CEO of Linde from 1st March (2022) and François Jackow to succeed Benoît Potier as CEO of Air Liquide from 1st June.

As I’ve written before, this is a whole new period for the industry. It feels very much as though the industrial and specialty gas ecosystem of today and tomorrow is being re-imagined and reinvigorated before our eyes.

For any of the top executives in the industry, it isn’t going to be just about building footprint, delivering strong margins and carving out new growth drivers as we may have seen in years gone by. This is a time of juggling all of those core goals against a backdrop of megatrends that challenge and stimulate the gases industry, not least digitisation and decarbonisation.

We can expect to see more evidence of the industry empowering so many other industrials in 2022, as well. The scale of the challenge we face in decarbonising was once again laid bare at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland in November. What’s more, the many nuances of how we achieve that decarbonisation were discussed and given the world’s stage – and the industrial gases industry has a hand in all of them, in some shape or form.

This year, we’ve already seen these developments in motion and over the coming days I’ll share with you my Editor’s Picks of the top stories in 2021 – from hydrogen to synthetic fuels, and continued ASU growth to medical oxygen milestones.

We begin on Monday with our most read story of the year and, despite all of the big headlines and movers and shakers I’ve discussed here, you just might be surprised by what that story is…