In the absence of its industry-leading international events, gasworld ushered in a new era of free-to-view, dynamic industrial gas webinars in June 2020.
As a result of change brought by the coronavirus pandemic, gasworld launched a compelling and fully interactive new webinars platform to continue to bring the discussion, debate and sense of connection to the global gases industry. Held in what became a customary on-air slot of Fridays at 2:30pm GMT, the webinars brought together speakers and viewers from across the globe to tackle the hot topics of the day for the industry.
Speaking ahead of their launch, Rob Cockerill, Global Managing Editor at gasworld, said, “This has been an ambition of ours for some time now, and we’re excited to be launching this new programme of webinars, rich in content and at a time when I think there’s clearly a lot of learnings to be taken from this period of pandemic.”
When the first webinar was subsequently launched, hosted by Cockerill, he opened, “Good morning, good afternoon, good evening – and welcome to gasworld webinars, a dynamic new communication platform for the global industrial gases business.”
“I’m your host, Rob Cockerill, and I’m delighted to welcome you to this three-part series of thought leadership webinars, delivered by gasworld and sponsored by Anova.”
“Here with gasworld webinars we will follow a journey from lockdown to lock and loaded opportunities and hopefully, the toolkit to realise those.”
Bandwidth in your business
Getting this exciting new webinars platform underway was a three-part series responding to the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and the new business playbook this has written, titled Bandwidth in Your Business and sponsored by Anova.
Covid-19 (coronavirus) had transformed our ways of life and work beyond modern comprehension. The pandemic caused downtime for most industries, not least the wider events sector, and curtailed the travel plans of many businesses. For the industrial gases industry, whose core pillars are steeped in personable relationships and the face-to-face connection, this has presented a major challenge in doing business.
The industry was forced to rethink how it operates – and reimagine those core pillars. It had to further strategise the delivery of products and services, while also being pushed ever more towards realising the digital technologies already at its disposal – from e-commerce to webinars and video calls. The new series, therefore, aimed to explore the bandwidth in businesses and how operations can still be primed and ready to realise the opportunities ahead during a pandemic, and explore the lessons learned from lockdown.
Guests across the series included Chet Reshamwala (CEO of Anova), Ravin Mirchandani (Director of Mack Valves), Stephen B. Harrison (sbh4 GmbH), Cai Weiguo (Partner of TrackAbout Asia-Pacific), Art Anderson (Managing Principal for AH Anderson Consulting), Phil Kornbluth (President of Kornbluth Helium Consulting), Kevin Lynch (Senior Vice-President, Industrial Gases at Anova), and Henrik Lyhne (Pentair Union Engineering).
Helium shortage over ‘for an extended period of time’
During the first series of gasworld’s webinars, titled Bandwidth in Your Business, helium expert Phil Kornbluth told the world that he did not expect there to be a future helium shortage ‘for an extended period of time’.
It was a projection that would go on to be proven correct, with Kornbluth, President of Kornbluth Helium Consulting, explaining that the Covid-19 pandemic had helped to bring an abrupt end to the two-year helium shortage, known as Helium Shortage 3.0.
“The industry had been in a severe shortage which started in February 2018 and it was a two-year shortage,” Kornbluth said. “It was a shortage driven primarily by the depletion and decline of existing supply rather than runaway demand. A lot of the time four of the five helium majors have been allocating supply to their customers. The shortage peaked about a year ago, when there was about a 40% shortage last August. Then when Covid-19 came along it was almost as if someone flipped the light switch.”
“Initially there was a demand reduction in China. As the virus spread around the world it took about 20-25% of demand away very quickly and the shortage ended. It turned from a 10% to a bit of a surplus in the market right now. By March the shortage had come to an end.”
Kornbluth added that he expected new supply from the likes of Gazprom’s Amur Gas Processing Plant in Russia to keep the industry in supply of helium rather than there being future shortages, assuming there is gradual recovery of worldwide economies.
Helium: Understanding the market in 2020
The next big three-part series of gasworld webinars focused on the delicately balanced helium market of today and tomorrow.
Sponsored by Evonik, the series was titled Helium: Understanding the Market in 2020, and saw over 200 industrial gas professionals and other individuals tune in for the first episode – a level of audience it would go on to maintain across the series.
Led and hosted by Cockerill, guests across the series included James R. Weaver (CEO of Aeon Petroleum Consultants), Alex Evans (Business Development Manager of Membranes at Evonik Membrane Technology), Patrick Schiffmann (Linde Engineering), Phil Kornbluth, Mike Corbett (Managing Partner at Linx Consulting), Roland Kuchler (Head of Business Development, Helium and Gas Asia-Pacific, Uniper Global Commodities SE) and Nick Snyder, Chairman, CEO and founder of North American Helium.
Viewers across the series learned about the key differences to look for in the various types of proven and prospective helium resources; how the Covid-19 pandemic had brought an end to Helium Shortage 3.0 and potentially heralded a pricing plateau in the future; how the semiconductor and wider electronics business is set to rival and possibly displace MRI as the biggest demand driver for helium; how advanced membrane technology is significantly changing the game in helium extraction and purification from certain source types; and much more besides.
H2 View webinars…
In addition to gasworld webinars, the gasworld TV platform also played host to various webinars from sister publication H2 View.
This began with the Hydrogen: Driven not Diminished three-part series of H2 View webinars. Hosted by Cockerill, the series tapped into one of the hottest and cleanest topics of 2020 – the hydrogen economy – and attracted record audience levels for the gasworld TV/webinars platform, with Part 1 focusing on why a clean and green economic recovery is crucial for the world, post-coronavirus.
The launch of the EU’s hydrogen strategy and the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance to deliver on it earlier that month, had represented a key moment in the history of green energy transition, according to one of Part 1’s guests, Bart Biebuyck of the FCH JU, and rightly dominated discussion in that keenly anticipated webinar.
A subsequent series of one-off H2 View In Conversation With… webinars were also provided from July to November (2020) including heavyweight, exclusive conversations with Shell Hydrogen, the Hydrogen Council, DNV GL and Raffinerie Heide.
H2 View in conversation with… The Hydrogen Council
Among the highlights of a number of highly successful H2 View webinars in 2020, was an exclusive discussion with its official partner, the Hydrogen Council.
Pierre-Etienne Franc, Co-Secretary of the Hydrogen Council, and Daryl Wilson, the recently appointed Executive Director of the Council, were the guests with Rob Cockerill for the webinar – during which Franc cited continued safety and bringing down cost as two things required to develop the global hydrogen market.
“A safety issue would be very detrimental to the sector and to the need to deploy it at scale,” Franc said. “We need to continue to be very stringent in the way we operate, qualify, develop, certify, suppliers and all the industry.”
“That’s a fundamental topic because many new players are figuring out the use of hydrogen and they need to be trained properly to make things properly.”
“Second, of course, is cost. We have a big challenge which is hydrogen is a fantastic tool, a fantastic vector, but it needs to be lower cost, and especially the green hydrogen, or the clean hydrogen, because you need to have new technologies, and for that you need to bring scale.”
Franc also highlighted the need for policy and for hydrogen to be green. “It’s only working if its clean. We need to push for the development of large projects for carbon capture on the one side and electrolysers on the other side,” he said.
Meanwhile Wilson shared his view that we’re just one investment cycle away from the hydrogen infrastructure we’re going to have in 2050. “We must never forget hydrogen is a very well-established industrial business today. Grand View Research values it at around $118bn in 2019, so hydrogen is an established industry,” he said.
“But what we’re talking about is the use of hydrogen as an energy vector, that’s where there’s still an emerging journey going on.”
“As you will know, the Council had a report published in January this year which gave a view that by 2050 we would reach revenues of $2.5 trillion per year. The vision is out there and we’ve been starting to plot the steps on that journey towards 2050.”
“There’s really been a confluence of several factors over this last period of time with falling renewable energy costs, recognition that a low carbon world is not going to emergence just all in one vector of electrification, but there needs to be the complementary aspect of hydrogen with that.”
“Then we had great progress in the industry in terms of scalability and maturity of the technology and the cost profile, and we have confidence in our reporting from the Council that these costs are going to come down and the scale is achievable in these coming years because really we’re only one investment cycle away from the infrastructure that we’re going to have with us in 2050.”
Full programme ahead
At the time of going to press, the discuss and debate continues on the gasworld webinars platform, with a major exclusive on the Covid-19 vaccines and their storage and distribution set to air before 2020 draws to a close, whilst a full and immersive programme of webinars in 2021 is already planned – with topics ranging from CO2 and circular economies, to specialty gases, helium market updates and digitisation.
For more information on gasworld TV, gasworld webinars and the comprehensive programme of webinars already confirmed for 2021, visit https://www.gasworld.tv/2021-webinars-programme/