Energy Transition Challenges and Trends: Markus Bachmeier, Linde


Listen to it on Spotify:





Christoph Frei: Welcome to the European Venture Fair. My name is Christoph Frei, I’m a partner of Emerald Ventures, and we are looking today into a green molecules perspective given by Linde’s Markus Bachmeier. Hydrogen is a new hot topic, obviously. And first of all, if you look at the electricity side, electricity is there for about 20% as part of final demand; 80% are molecules, many of them used for hard to abate, so-called hard to abate, those sectors that are very tough to decarbonise, like city centres with cold winters or hot summers, like off road transportation, be that shipping, be that airlines or long distance traffic or like materials, chemicals, metals who need a lot of energy as well. Now, hydrogen can provide solutions for some of those spaces and in this interview, welcome again, Markus Bachmeier, we want to understand where you and Linde see the opportunities closest to us. Markus Bachmeier, where would you see are those opportunities that are closest to market entry today?

Markus Bachmeier: Hey, thanks for the introduction. And when we look at it, there’s a number of things. We think transportation, hydrogen in transportation, is at the brink or is already being implemented. We see rigs on the road, we see infrastructure build up, so this in our eyes is one of the early building blocks of the overall hydrogen economy. We see also for ships and other vehicles, we see a lot of developments and we are pretty sure that hydrogen will play a role in those segments where there is a high usage of the vehicle, there’s a high daily mileage and where there are relatively, relatively large vehicles with a high payload.

Christoph: Now…

Markus: Sorry. Short break. We also see a number of parallel developments, for example, in steel making, we see that there are pilot projects, first pilot projects, to reduce iron ore with hydrogen and with renewable hydrogen, not with coal gas anymore. So, the chemical process, we think, can be mastered really. As in many other fields, the challenge is really to compete on the cost side. We see developments in aviation, we see developments in trucking, we also see an increase of green hydrogen for refineries. We talked about… Or the previous speaker talked about ammonia, and then when you look at the three biggest uses of hydrogen today, it’s really ammonia, it’s refining, and it’s methanol production, and we think that in those areas, there will be steps, step by step towards renewable hydrogen compared to conventional hydrogen as well.

Christoph: Now, we have a big hype now of hydrogen, a lot of hope behind this energy carrier. We have seen 20 years ago, a huge hype in hydrogen and the dust combust. Now, the question becomes, what is different today? Is it only technology that we have gained, price competitiveness, new innovation, or is it also about a different approach? How would you say the approach is different today today?

Markus: Well, first of all, I think the framework has changed. I think the awareness of environmental topics and the awareness of the carbon dioxide challenge that we’re facing is now much, much more pressing than it was 20 years ago. Many people knew about it 20 years ago, but now in my eyes, it’s really very widespread, and you also see a lot of regulations dealing with the carbon dioxide emissions. So, I think the regulatory side has changed very significantly, and also, on the technology side, I think there has been a lot of progress. When you look at fuel cell technologies, when you look at different generations of fuel cells, and the generation can mean three, four, five, six years, not 10 years, not 20 years. There have been dramatic increases in power, there have been dramatic cost reductions, so I think now, the stars are much better aligned than they were 20 years ago.

Christoph: And it is true as well, I think, that we see today a different approach when it comes to re-utilization of existing infrastructure by greening whatever flows through those infrastructure with hydrogen. It’s no longer about building just an entirely new infrastructure, it’s about greening an existing infrastructure, which is helpful as well. Your own examples… You have with Linde, obviously, a number of activities and early projects. You have in the Power to Gas, you build refuelling stations, you have collaborations to provide hydrogen as the energy carrier for transport and logistics in some places. Tell us more about some of those projects and is there one project that excites you in particular?

Markus: So what you mentioned is, and there has been a lot of dynamics in our company as well, for example, last year, we acquired a 20% stake in ITM, which is a UK-based electrolyser manufacturer because we are convinced that this is going to be an extremely pivotal technology for green hydrogen production and will be for the next decades. We have built already six years ago now still one of the biggest power-to-gas plants in Mainz in Germany, where you have windmills of the local utility. That electricity is converted to hydrogen. We can store it there, and storage is also a very, very important aspect of hydrogen in the energy system to really iron out the fluctuations of wind and solar. And we have been operating that plant for six years now, and that plant now supplies hydrogen both to fueling stations, as well as feeding into the gas lines. We are a joint venture partner. We are a joint venture partner in H2 MOBILITY Germany, where we now have 85 public fueling stations for passenger cars, which means you can drive anywhere in the country with a hydrogen car and get back to a hydrogen station, so no worry about not finding a station anymore. But one of the projects which I really like most is the H2 Energy project in Switzerland, where we are also a joint venture partner in one of the joint ventures that are involved because here, the demand for hydrogen, for trucks, for passenger cars, the infrastructure, which are fueling stations, and the hydrogen production, are very, very well aligned, and I think this is one of the most advanced projects, and we are very optimistic that it will be very successful and it will lead the way for similar projects in other countries as well.

Christoph: At the Venture Fair here, we are talking obviously to and about innovators, and the supply chain. If you look at the full picture of hydrogen, obviously, it has a production part, electrolysis, then it has a storage part, it has a transport part, it has a huge fuel cell part. Where would you say there’s the biggest need for new ideas and further improvement? Is there one segment that you’re particularly keen to see very… Particularly keen to see new startups and new innovations coming from?
Markus: So personally, I think transport and storage are really challenging topics or are really interesting topics because it’s the lightest molecule in the periodic system, so it’s quite tricky to transport it in an economic way over long distances. So this would be one of the areas where I hope there will be a lot of progress in the next couple of years.

Christoph: We have seen massive progress already over the past years, is there anything you want… in conclusion almost, is there anything that over the past three years or three years ago you haven’t done and that you are doing today?

Markus: So, one example would be really investing into electrolysis technology, which we already started last year because we didn’t want to pursue or to keep on buying that equipment, but we really want to be part of the game in that technology. There is a number of projects, but I don’t want to talk about that in detail in the chemical industry, steel industry and other places, where we see pilot projects coming up, which hadn’t been around a couple of years ago. What we also see is that in the heavy-duty transport, like heavy duty trucking industry, the development, in my eyes, now is happening much faster than I personally would have expected five years ago.

Christoph: Thank you very much, Markus Bachmeier, part of Linde’s Hydrogen Solutions, and obviously we are very keen to see your next milestones.

Markus: Thank you very much.