Over 100 years after the development of the air separation process, gases are an indispensable ingredient in modern processes. Are we taking full advantage of these volatile enablers? Jens Waldeck, Linde Gas European CEO, and Elisabeth Mehlan, Head of Market Development in Europe, are convinced that, in order to win customers for new avenues in gas exploitation, it is essential to understand their processes.
After the fusion with Praxair, it is hoped that application expertise will offer decisive added value for Linde customers. With solutions from environmental technology to the hydrogen economy, the gas experts believe that they are well equipped to deal with the challenges that will come.
PROCESS: Carl von Linde kick-started an unparalleled success story in 1873 — with curiosity, persistence and sheer ability. What are the characteristics that characterize Linde today?
Jens Waldeck: All three attributes still play a major role today. As an inventor and entrepreneur, Carl von Linde was not only curious in the sense of finding out how things work, but he was also driven to translate what he learned into practical applications. Today, we are driven by the curiosity to obtain technical know-how with the things we learn and to offer added value with application technology. The development of the refrigerating machine was a long process, with many setbacks along the way. In the current, constantly changing world, it is becoming more important to question yourself in order to keep finding ways to do things better. “A little bit better every day!” — This is how we meet our claim of “making the world more productive.” Von Linde’s goal was to identify the needs of the customers and meet their demands for reliability and quality. With his ability to translate this into new technologies, for example with the development of the refrigerating machine, he was able deliver solutions that greatly simplify day-to-day living. We also focus on customer requirements, and our aim is to start from these requirements and develop them into value-adding technologies, bringing them to life as application engineering solutions — of course in combination with a reliable and safe supply.
PROCESS:Gases tend to play a secondary role in technology discussions. Are gases the hidden champions of process engineering?
Elisabeth Mehlan: Actually, most people are probably unaware where gases are actually used. Gases help us to make manufacturing processes more efficient, safer and more environmentally friendly. In addition, the use of gases also improves the quality of products.
PROCESS: What is Linde today? Gas producer and supplier? Technology corporation? Or a plant builder?
Waldeck: All three components are important, and this is clearly reflected in our vision. We want to be the most high-performing company for industrial gases and plant construction in the world, with employees who deliver innovative and sustainable solutions for our customers in a networked world.
From the Beginning: Over a Century of Expertise in Gas Applications
PROCESS: And that for over a century already. How do you remain the market and technology leader for such a long period of time?
Waldeck: The first part is rigorous work in terms of research and development in the production, storage and supply of technical gases, so that we can provide our customers with the products required for their success with the highest efficiency using sustainable technologies.
Alongside this, it is the application engineering that is the key component. Together with the users, we develop new application fields for technical gases every day via a worldwide network of many hundreds of specialists. Thanks to this global collaboration, these developments are available for our customers in a very short space of time.
PROCESS: Are there any particular industries that you feel are becoming more important?
Waldeck: What is really exciting about our business is that we operate in a wide range of different industries and application areas. As a result, we encounter lots of new trends all around the world.
We also focus on global developments: Protection of the environment, along with the revolution taking place in energy, safe and healthy nutrition, new manufacturing technologies and health are just as important here as the developments in the electronics industry that go hand in hand with digitalization. And, of course, the challenge still remains to steadily optimize and improve the efficiency of classic industries.
PROCESS: After the fusion with Praxair a quarter of global gas production will come from Linde. What does that mean for your customers?
Mehlan: Linde and Praxair were already two players with individual strengths in the market. Building on this, the new company will offer even better support to its customers thanks to a strong global presence and a wider portfolio of innovative products and solutions. In the process, we will put our faith in the combined engineering know-how and technology portfolio in order to push ahead with the development of new products and solutions. In the field of application engineering, this will enable us to pool developments in both worlds and see where this throws up new topics for our relevant geography.
Departure into the New Era
PROCESS: What are the next milestones that the new, bigger Linde family hopes to impress the market with in the future?
Mehlan: Both Linde and Praxair place great value in not only being suppliers of molecules, but in acting as genuine know-how partners. I am looking forward to seeing what new ideas will come up when we pool our application engineering portfolios.
PROCESS: What role do services play at Linde?
Mehlan: We want to differentiate ourselves as a complete solution provider so that we can offer our customers real added value. Partly we do this with application engineering know-how, but partly also with services of course. An important role in this context is played by the safety of plants and equipment and occupational health and safety for people working with them. In the context of gases, certain responsibilities (such as risk assessments or employee training) fall on the operating company. We support users and help them to understand, be aware of and implement these requirements
PROCESS: What role does Linde play in the context of the transformation of the energy and transport sectors?
Waldeck: “Green” hydrogen, i.e. hydrogen generated from regenerative energies via electrolysis, is the energy medium of the future and will play an important role both in terms of mobility and for sector coupling or pure energy storage. As a result, Linde is predestined to play a pivotal role in the energy revolution, since the company not only offers the relevant expert competence in production, storage and logistics, but is also capable of implementing corresponding innovative business models for the existing — and non-trivial — boundary conditions.
PROCESS: Ms. Mehlan, Mr. Waldeck, thank you very much for talking to us.