By the mid-point of 2021 the world of industrial gas has seen myriad developments and new ground being broken, and the topic of conversation in today’s (25th June 2021) webinar, sponsored by Anova, was an exploration of the year so far within industrial gas and all of its major talking points.

Hosted by gasworld Global Managing Editor, Rob Cockerill, the webinar started with Leslie Waller, of Anova, sharing her views on the industry so far. With more than 26 years of experience in the industrial gases industry, Waller is currently the Vice-President of Global Sales, Industrial Gases, at Anova.

Touching on notable topics within the industry over the past six months, Waller said, “Today I would like to touch on the value of the internet of things. Over this past year and a half, the pandemic has promoted a dumbing down effect in this area, especially in the industrial gas market.”

“Globally we saw a decrease in metals and manufacturing affecting oxygen demand and argon production as well, since oxygen is needed for argon production. We saw a decrease in gasoline production, affecting oxygen demands.”

“An increase in oxygen for healthcare and an increase especially in high purity gases in the electronics market.”

Waller also mentioned that it’s important to keep in mind what gaps that these supply challenges have exposed within multiple industries and that companies, and how more than ever before, there has been an increased need for digitisation.

Waller stated that businesses during this time need to focus on operations and efficiency.

Continuing, she stated, “I want to touch on three areas. First, hospital oxygen, which has been spoken about at length by gasworld and the industry. There were severe capacity restraints and there still are globally. We have seen volumes in hospitals going from 400 to 500 percent of delivery system design in some areas.”

“So, global data monitoring requests have soared in this area of high impact like California, Texas, India, Brazil, Peru.”

The second topic she touched upon was carbon dioxide (CO2), saying that the industry is now looking for decentralised sources of carbon dioxide as many ethanol plants are not coming back online and CO2 is a by-product of ethanol.

Speaking about her next topic, digitisation, Waller said that we could be doing a lot more and that we’re only scratching the surface.

She said, “I think a lot of people think about digitisation, oh let’s see what the tank level is, let’s see what the flow and pressure is, can we do smarter deliveries, yes, that’s very important and that’s the backbone of our technology.”

“We are only touching the surface right now and Anova are spending a lot of time developing with our customers and partnering with our customers to help them become more efficient and help them grow.”

This was a topic that Cockerill probed Waller further on, questioning if the industry really was only scratching the surface so far; she affirmed this to be the case and underlined the sheer potential that awaits in a more digitised industry in the years ahead.

Hydrogen, decarbonisation, and medical oxygen

The second speaker of the webinar was Ravin Mirchandani of Mack Valves and the Ador Group. With over 20 years of international development experience including establishing new operations in both Asia and Europe, he currently sits on gasworld and sister publication; H2 View’s editorial advisory boards. With a passion for decarbonisation he had plenty to say on the topic.

Giving his thoughts on hydrogen and decarbonisation, he said, “The wonderful thing about decarbonisation in our industry, in particular hydrogen, is that it puts our industry front and centre in the space of making a wonderful impact for our planet and reversing some of the rape and pillage of our environment over the last 200 years.”

He also spoke of the power of decarbonisation and green hydrogen in de-leveraging the world from the oil industry, saying, “With hydrogen we have one more very important impact, which is the fact that our industry is now starting to play a role in freeing the world from the many geopolitical impasses of the oil industry.”

With regards to the future of hydrogen, Mirchandani equates the industry following a similar pricing pattern to that of the lowering in price of lithium as it became more and more ubiquitous. He said, “You will see the same in hydrogen, as the prices of electrolysers and fuel cells start to drop, you will see increasing hydrogen mobility becoming ubiquitous and static energy applications becoming implement equally fast.”

“For me hydrogen is a facilitator of all the recent dream industries that have been spawned including electric mobility.”

Medical oxygen 

From the bright spots of clean energy, to the sobering assessments of the Covid-19 pandemic and the shortages of medical oxygen, Mirchandani provided a perspective of the harrowing scenes from India earlier this year.

Being from India himself, he was able to witness the full impact of the medical oxygen shortages during the Covid-19 pandemic on the ground, as it happened. Sharing his thoughts about the current situation and the future of medical oxygen in India, he said, “The truth is that the entire industrial gas industry in India has been at the forefront of trying to help the situation and alleviate it, the whole industry came together in a way that we’ve never seen before and that’s perhaps the silver lining in all of this.”

He continued, “The truth is, no matter how prepared you could have been, the way corona impacts demand on hospitals, beds, access to ventilators, and finally to oxygen, the sheer peak that corona gives you in every city means that no matter how well prepared you are, you are likely going to face a crisis similar to what New York experienced in May 2020.”

He then discussed the government of India allowing oxygen to be diverted for medical use, saying, “12 months ago allowed for oxygen to be diverted for medical use in the event of an emergency, so they were quite proactive in that. When the second wave came, peaking in April and then in May, the capacity of oxygen in India actually went up five times as a result. The challenge that we had in India was that the infrastructure is challenged at points, so you had tanker trucks, they were put on trains, they were called oxygen expresses. And then moved between cities because it was much faster to do that by train.”

After mentioning the amount of international support that India received through the pandemic, Mirchandani spoke about how heartening it was to see global corporations pulling together in a time of need, “It’s heartening to see how all the differences are put aside and all companies, big and small, whether they were oxygen resellers, oxygen fillers or the large syndicated multinational companies came together to help the country through this,” he said.

“And as an industry on behalf of the industry in India, also I’d like to say thank you to all the global players that helped India through this crisis.”

Every golf shot… 

The third and final speaker was industry veteran, William (Bill) J. Kroll, with more than 40 years’ experience in executive management across multiple industries, including 23 years of service to Matheson Tri-Gas, Inc. and formerly the executive chairman and senior managing executive officer of Taiyo Nippon Sanso Corporation (TNSC). 

Currently, he is Chairman Emeritus at Matheson & TNSC, as well as sitting on the advisory boards for both gasworld and Anova. 

Speaking about what affected him most this industrial gas year, Kroll spoke briefly about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and its industry-wide implications, saying, “There’s a comment I’ve always made, every golf shot always make somebody happy. Unfortunately, what happens to create a problem causes an opportunity and vice-versa.” 

“I’m very taken by what’s gone on now for the people in India, I watched what happened with the oxygen and the digitisation thing, I’ve been yelling at the Anova folks myself about what could be done and what should be done.” 

He then went on to mention how important green and blue hydrogen could be in the future, saying, “Green and blue hydrogen is going to become a real factor.” 

“I’m a big hydrogen fan, I think hydrogen is going to be interesting. The monitoring there is going to get all the more interesting, as it did with liquid helium. Cryogenically, they’re just about the same.” 

A full and engaging Q&A session followed, with questions for all panellists on the state of the industry today and tomorrow, and particularly for Kroll as both Cockerill as host and the audience as interested participants tapped into his wealth of industry knowledge and wisdom.

The full webinar is available to watch on www.gasworldtv.com

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