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Milestone Technical Gases/Industrial Gases Invisible Gases, Visible Successes: How Linde Makes the World More Productive

Editor: Dominik Stephan

For 140 years Linde has been setting standards in the world of gases and helping to make our world more productive — Gases have made it possible. Whether chemicals, metallurgy, food industry, processing industry or environmental technology, there is barely any sector that can do without the hidden champions from the tank or pressure cylinder. Here, the development of technical gases has been inextricably linked to the achievements of one man — and of the company that bears his name to this day. Since the development of the air separation process, Linde has constantly reinvented itself — and is now developing the solutions for the industries of tomorrow.

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Volatile meets liquid: In the Water Lab, experts from Linde are researching how gases will enable water resources management of tomorrow.
Volatile meets liquid: In the Water Lab, experts from Linde are researching how gases will enable water resources management of tomorrow.
(Source: Linde)

In an urgent response to a major fire incident, fire alarms screech in Kirchberg/Germany in the heat of the summer of 2015. The Lobenhausen mill has gone up in flames — and with it the storage halls in which large quantities of fertilizer are being housed. Although the fire brigade is able to control the fire, an environmental disaster occurs when, despite the presence of a retention basin, highly toxic firefighting water runs into the river Jagst, a tributary of the Neckar. Initial samples taken the following morning show that the ammonium content of the small river is 200 times the critical level for fish.

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Time for the gas experts: The German civil protection organisation THW calls in Linde to get urgently required oxygen into the water. The idea is simple. Pumping oxygen from tanker trucks with a mobile aeration system into the river. For 24 hours, the specialists pump the vital gas onto the riverbed. With joint forces, they manage to stabilize the oxygen content of the water. An example of how gases help to protect the environment and life, even though not every case is quite as dramatic as this.

Oxygen, CO2 and Co: Clean Water for the World

Sometimes things are much more placid. For example in the area of drinking water treatment, where for a long time carbon dioxide has been added in order to adjust the lime/carbonic acid balance to avoid corrosion damage and limescale. Treatment with oxygen also helps to ensure that the quality of the drinking water is high. As well as eliminating materials such as iron, manganese, ammonium or methane, it also serves to establish and preserve a corrosion-inhibiting surface layer in metal pipes for drinking water.

Clean, safe water is one of the fundamental building blocks for high quality of life, but water reserves are under increasing threat: For example, the input of nitrates from agriculture causes problems with regard to compliance with the limit value of 50 mg/l. There are various reduction methods that can be used, including reverse osmosis and nanofiltration, but biological methods are also used like the ones employed by the public utilities in Aschaffenburg/Germany, who use hydrogen for denitrification. In order to meet these challenges, Linde has developed a catalytic method that also uses hydrogen to remove nitrates.

The Invisible Enablers: Gases Make the World More Productive

“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote. Even though the French poet was certainly not thinking about gases, it would not be presumptuous to speak about these volatile enablers in this way. Gases keep bodies of water alive, both during the renaturation of surface waters and during the treatment of highly-polluted wastewater. The invisible enablers also do a great deal in communal or industrial sewage treatment plants, where pure oxygen can help with aeration and ozone is seen as a promising candidate for the future fourth stage of wastewater treatment.

“Gases help to make processes more efficient, more cost effective, safer or more environmentally friendly,” explains Elisabeth Mehlan, Head of Market Development (Central Europe) at Linde. Whether in a blast furnace or in the waterworks: In many industrial processes, the hidden champions of the process industry are just as indispensable as water, heat and electricity. Gases play a pivotal role when joining and separating, during heating and cooling, for protecting and conserving, when testing and analyzing or in medical applications.

A Tradition of Innovation: The Gas Pioneers

This triumph was made possible by the achievements of one man: Carl von Linde. With the invention of his air separation process in 1895, the restless engineer not only made it possible to extract gaseous raw materials from the atmosphere — Linde also laid the foundations for an unparalleled success story. The foundation of the company “Gesellschaft für Linde's Eismaschinen” saw the creation not only of one of the largest producers of gases and gas systems in the world, but also of a technology driver who has been leading the market with innovations for over a century.

But how do you secure a century of technology leadership? By seeking out trends and changes and offering appropriate added value, explains Mehlan. “What can we do to offer the customer new, innovative solutions? This is our daily challenge.”

In fact, Linde has always been much more than “just” a gas producer. Thanks to its closeness to the customer and the know-how that has been built up through decades of experience, the company’s specialists have co-developed technologies and applications side-by-side. In 1943, the company started building equipment and plants in Schalchen in Upper Bavaria. Back in 1953, the specialists already constructed the largest air separation plant that had been built up to this point (capacity: 13,000 kg of oxygen and 22,500 kg of nitrogen per hour) for export to the USA.

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