What a year 2018 has been. In the almost 15 years that gasworld has been the eyes, ears and increasingly the mouthpiece for the global industrial gases business, we have seldom seen such a year of headlines and transformation.

In a year of momentous handshakes on one hand and trade tariffs on the other, as well as discoveries in both big data and scientific exploration, perhaps the common denominator in 2018 was a challenging of the status quo.

Did anyone really think President Trump and Kim Jong-un would share an embrace or softening in rhetoric? Does anyone think the introduction of trade tariffs is a good thing for global trade? Have data privacy scandals changed the way we think about our digital footprints?

By extension, does this change the way we think about data application in industry and other walks of life?

One might even ask themselves again, is there life on Mars? New discoveries continue to be made, and perceptions challenged (with the aid of industrial gases and technologies, we might add).

In an industrial and specialty gas context, who would have thought that a European carbon dioxide (CO2) shortage would capture the public and press attention in such a manner?

The CO2 paradox: Plenty in the atmosphere, but not enough in our beer?

Could anyone have foreseen another tightening in the helium market so soon after the last, or even a postponement of BLM Crude Helium Auction due to legal action? Many will have foreseen significant pricing increases in the helium business when that auction did take place, but could anyone have envisaged a price hike of 135%?

Does anyone fully understand the impact of trade tariffs on the gases business, and how these will play out in the medium term?

And could anyone have predicted the pace at which proliferation in digital technologies has taken place in the industry in the last year? This alone has challenged the way we think about operations and business models in the gases industry, arguably more than anything else.

circuit board finger

Transformation

From those high-profile CO2 shortages in Europe and Mexico, to a tightening helium market once again and of course the mega-merger of equals of Praxair and Linde reaching fever pitch, the last 12 months have provided more talking points than ever before.

That’s without even mentioning clean energies and the growing momentum for the much-awaited Hydrogen Economy.

What do all of these topics have in common? Well, one could argue that they have all challenged the way we think about the industry, how it operates, how it drives value, and what it means or delivers to its many-splintered end-users. These movements continue to challenge our commonly-held way of thinking.

All aspects of digitisation, for example, question everything we knew about the way our products are produced, handled and delivered – as well as the administrative or business models behind them. It also poses questions over the industry’s readiness for such transformation.

I think that perhaps we have there the word that best embodies the industrial gas year that was – transformation. For so many reasons, it will never be the same again. Whether you’re an industrial gas professional, an analyst, end-user or a new stakeholder in the industry, 2018 was a significant year of change for the industry.

It was against this backdrop that gasworld launched its first ever Industrial Gas Yearbook, striving to have every nuance of this incredible year covered.

Throughout 2018 we delivered news, views, insight and intelligence of all of these major talking points and much more besides – and as well as being your focal point every step of the way, we crowned this defining year for our loyal readers and supports with the Yearbook, a compendium of the industrial gas year. If you’re a subscriber to gasworld, then you should have a copy waiting on the desk for you in the New Year, if you haven’t seen it already.

2015–2020 graphic

More, more, more…

Of course it’s customary at this time, as we usher in the close of one year and welcome in another, to look ahead to what the future holds.

It is clear that another defining year lies ahead as the industry wrestles with a new landscape in market share, mergers and acquisitions (M&A), as well as its role in the acceleration of a cleaner, greener energy portfolio for the future.

The creation of Linde plc (Praxair-Linde) will still dominate headlines in 2019. The remaining businesses of Praxair and Linde will begin the integration process into combined regional business units, while divestments are still to take place in South Korea, China and South America for example.

Though TNSC has already completed its purchase of the European divested businesses (trading under the name of Nippon Gases), there will still be much to do in terms of integration. For another of the big winners of the Linde plc divestment process, the Messer Group, there will not only be plenty of work to do in the year ahead, but opportunities in equal measure as it re-enters the North American market and leverages the potential it sees.

Stefan Messer: Asset acquisition ‘the biggest decision I have ever made’

Ultimately, there will be change up and down the supply chain in the next 12+ months as a result of this chain reaction of M&A activity.

What else is there to look forward to? In a sense, more, more and more of the megatrends that have captured our attention (and imaginations) in the last year.

We will see even more digitisation, from the full automation of plants and optimisation of operations through to the tracking and purchasing of product, even more hydrogen energy roll-out across the globe, and ever-greater innovation across an array of applications. Hot topic applications like additive manufacturing (AM) and environmental compliance will continue to be the subject of innovation in specialty gas molecules and equipment.

And who knows, we may even see another big CO2 shortage if the feedback I’ve received in the last few weeks is anything to go by.

At gasworld, we look forward to breaking more new ground as we partner with the industry in its coverage of these exciting endeavours. Thanks to all our contributors, advertisers, subscribers and readers that have partnered with us this year. I hope you enjoy reading how it unfolded in our Yearbook, and trust us to keep you at the forefront again in 2019.

Until then, Season’s Greetings at this special time of year!