For gasworld’s final webinar of the year, sponsored by Guangdong Huate Gas, we focused on the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, delving into the details of its industrial gas potential and key talking points such as clean fuels and digitisation.

Hosted by gasworld Global Managing Editor, Rob Cockerill, Part 2 followed on from gasworld’s Part 1: US webinar, and explored opportunities present in the Indian market with Rohit Behani of Tekno Valves, the explosion in growth of China’s industrial gas sector with Damon Huang, Regional Manager for Guangdong Huate Gas, and the Asian energy market with Roland Kuchler, Head of Business Development for Helium & Gas in the APAC region for Uniper Global Commodities SE (Uniper). 

Behani was first in our panel of expert speakers. Equipped with a vast knowledge of cylinder valves, he discussed growth, the demand for industrial gases in India and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

He revealed the extent of growth within the Indian industrial gas market, saying that it reached $2.8bn in 2010. 

“A leading market research group estimated the market to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 11.3% for the next five years,” he added. 

“This includes fuel, medical, and refrigerant specialty gases. The end user industry has reached pre-Covid levels of turnover, however, disruption in ocean freight and supply chain issues are concerns.” 

Sharing his optimism about 2022, he believed that the industry should achieve its ‘true potential’ in the coming days with the Indian industrial gas sector playing an important role acting as the ‘catalyst for growth.’

He was then asked about consolidation occurring within the Indian industrial gas sector, linking it to trends in both technology and safety. 

“Despite consolidation happening in the Indian gas industry for some time, the market still has 350 to 400 players. I feel consolidation is going from safety perspectives and even small players have opportunities to merge with each other,” he said. 

Hoping that the industry makes safety its biggest priority without having to learn from preventable accidents, Behani added that more could have been done regarding safety during the oxygen crisis - made far worse by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic that swept across the country. 

Adding to its emphasis on safety, Behani stated that education is also a priority. A seminar organised in Mumbai taught the importance of preparedness for a potential third wave. 

“I’m sure India is better prepared in case the third wave doesn’t happen. And I think we are moving towards safety.”  

Awakening China’s industrial dragon

Huang was next up; he began by elaborating on China’s fast-growing gases business. 

“Industrial gases have been dubbed the blood of the industrial market and hence play an important role in China’s national economy,” he said. 

“China has experienced the initial stages of development of these industrial gases, industry now is currently in a rapid development stage, so it is a great time to be talking about this land of opportunity.” 

A true land of opportunity in every sense of the phrase, China could see its market size reaching around $25bn. 

Growth in the country has been rapid, with the market growing at an average annual rate of more than 50% from 2018 to 2022. 

The country’s specialty gases market increased to a valuation of $24.1bn in 2017, an 11.5% increase from 2016. 

When asked about the biggest windows for growth in the Chinese industrial gas market as a whole, Huang revealed the country’s focus on growth of an energy mix as part of its green and low carbon path. 

He explained, “China aims to achieve peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060. In the National People’s Congress in 2021, achieving peak carbon and carbon neutrality was included in the government report for the first time. 

One area that China is looking to develop further is hydrogen, with Huang revealing that the country plans more than 700 sets of hydrogen refuelling stations by 2025. 

“And we haven’t even touched upon digital technologies, other emerging applications and overall economic growth. This is definitely the land of opportunity for industrial gases.” 

APAC set to accelerate its growth

Concluding our final webinar of the year was Uniper’s Kuchler, who was keen to discuss the Asian industrial gases market, global commodities, and helium. 

He began by giving an overview of Asian markets, specifically commodities, energy, and potential ripple effects on global markets. 

“Over the last couple of years, the demand for energy has clearly shifted from Europe and North America to the Asian markets.” 

“Energy demand in Asia is growing fast, whatever happens in Asia has a knock-on effect on the global markets,” he said. 

This demand from China and India has also reflected in the reliance on energy imports for most energy commodities, which has a huge impact on the supply chain, creating risk factors such as bottlenecks in shipping. 

These constraints have resulted in a closer examination of cleaner fuels such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) to mitigate the increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. 

This energy transition is expected to contribute to the APAC region’s accelerated growth in GDP, which is set to double until 2040, according to Kuchler. 

He added, “China will be a leading force and main driver for that. It will overtake the US as the largest economy very soon. We are also expecting considerable growth in the emerging markets countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines.” 

Helium production is also set to decrease in Australia, increasing the reliance of the Asian markets on helium imports. 

Three trends seen by Kuchler in 2021 includes a ‘new supply’ in the helium market. Historically, the US, Canada, Qatar, and Russia have been strong helium producers; a new APAC-centric supply set to come online could potentially transform the helium distribution industry. 

When it comes to helium, it’s easy to think its growth in the APAC region is solely down to China, but Kuchler revealed other factors at play. 

“China is and will be the key and main driver for the demand growth, but there are many other market regions which will show a significant demand growth.” 

“India is certainly a bright prospect. In respect to helium, there’s a great upside, particularly when India will start producing more and more electronic goods for the domestic market as well,” he added. 

But it’s not just India and China, he believes that other parts of Southeast Asia are set to show an increase in growth, presenting opportunities for the APAC region as a whole. 

“There are also a lot of challenges in delivering those goods and satisfying the demand in those markets as well.”

If you enjoyed Part 2 of gasworld’s final webinar of 2021, you can watch Part 1 and all previous webinars here.