It is easy to imagine that, since its creation in 1902, Air Liquide has had to deal with many economic changes. Today, the champion of industrial gases is entering the energy transition at full speed, both to reduce the carbon footprint of its production processes and to meet the new needs of its customers. According to its new strategic plan, Advance, presented on March 22, the group will devote half of the 16 billion euros of investments planned between 2022-2025, an amount never reached.
Air Liquide is, for example, one of the world’s leading producers of gray hydrogen, ie obtained from natural gas, which represents around 10% of its turnover. The challenge is to offer new solutions, such as blue hydrogen, which captures CO2 emitted, or green hydrogen, produced from renewable energies. By 2035, the group is counting on a tripling of sales of this molecule. “The decarbonization of industry represents ten times the market for industrial gases”, assures François Jackow, the deputy general manager who will take control of the group in June, in place of the current CEO, Benoît Potier. The challenges are therefore considerable, starting with changes in scale. In Port-Jérôme-sur-Seine, near Le Havre in Seine-Maritime, Air Liquide will build a 200 MW electrolyser. It will be ten times larger than the one he inaugurated in Canada in January 2021, then presented as one of the largest in the world. The electrolyser will produce 84 tons of green hydrogen per day and should supply the nearby refineries of ExxonMobil and TotalEnergies, but also other manufacturers. This project, called “Normand’hy” is one of the fifteen hydrogen projects supported by France. It should receive 190 million euros in public aid, after the green light from the European Commission, expected by this summer.
The other pillar of Air Liquide’s development in the energy transition is based on the capture of CO2, with an in-house technology, Cryocap. Several projects are on the table, in Port-Jérôme, but also in Antwerp, Belgium, with BASF. “The objective is to build new ecosystems around decarbonization in large industrial basins”, explains Benoît Potier. Then it remains to store the CO2. Air Liquide has just announced an agreement with the logistician Sogestran, which will transport it in liquid form to the seabed of the North Sea, where it will be sequestered.