Sustainability: enshrined in our thinking and a lever for value creation

Air Liquide Sustainability Day
Large Industries
2 June 2021

On the occasion of Sustainability Day, 23 March 2021, Air Liquide put forward its new "Environmental, Social and Governance" strategy, where CO2 emissions naturally play an important role.

"In 2018, we were already talking about reducing by 30% our carbon intensity1 by 2025 compared to 2015," says Dena Bouâli, Technologies & Energy Transformation Director at Air Liquide. "As the business continues to grow, including our ambition to triple hydrogen production by 2035, we’re now also committing to reducing CO2 emissions in absolute terms by 33% — reducing Scope 1 direct CO2 emissions (caused by sources within the company) and Scope 2 indirect CO2 emissions (resulting from energy brought in) by 2035, compared to 2020. This will keep us on track for our ultimate goal: being fully carbon neutral by 2050."

But not content to simply reduce its own CO2 emissions, Air Liquide is also looking to make low-carbon technical solutions, such as CryoCap, available to customers.

1.2 million tons of hydrogen
Clearly, hydrogen will soon be playing a key role in the global energy transition. In practical terms, it is expected that by 2050 approximately 18% of world energy demand will be met by hydrogen.

That’s why Air Liquide is fully committed to developing technologies and methodologies to build and optimise the production and distribution of low-carbon hydrogen on a large scale.

"Thanks to our research and our many years of experience, Air Liquide has become a major accelerator in the hydrogen industry. We now operate more than 50 hydrogen production units together producing around 1.2 million tons of hydrogen each year. We transport it to our customers through hydrogen pipelines — some 1,800 km in the Benelux alone — and by road haulage."

"With our hydrogen activities, we not only make an important contribution to a sustainable society, it also generates sales of around €2 billion a year. This is how sustainability instantly becomes a powerful lever for value creation."

Renewable and low carbon hydrogen
In recent years, Air Liquide has been actively working to improve the efficiency of its hydrogen production units. A good example of this is the new SMR-X hydrogen plant in Antwerp. "But these developments are still not enough to achieve everything we want to do," says the company.

To respond even more effectively, there are two possibilities: producing renewable hydrogen by electrolysis or producing low-carbon hydrogen through CO2 capture and storage. "That's why we want to step up renewable hydrogen production — based on electricity from renewable energy sources. Air Liquide's ambition is to invest in 3 gigawatts of electrolysis capacity before 2035, opening our first 200 megawatt electrolysis hydrogen production unit in the Netherlands by 2024. From then on, we could scale up rapidly."

"But because it will still take some time for renewable hydrogen to become widely available and affordable, we also want to boost low-carbon hydrogen production at the same time. Low-carbon hydrogen is produced in the traditional way, but the CO2 released in the process is captured by a CryoCap unit and then stored sustainably under the seabed (CCS, carbon capture and storage)."

Porthos and Antwerp@C
In recent years, Air Liquide has helped build two large carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects in Rotterdam and Antwerp — Porthos and Antwerp@C. For both projects, Air Liquide will invest in CryoCap units to capture industrial CO2 emissions. The CO2 will then be compressed and transported in gaseous or liquid form to a former natural gas field — several kilometres beneath the seabed — for permanent storage.

"To do this we’re working with some important industrial partners, such as BASF, Exxon, Shell, Total, Equinor, DOW and ArcelorMittal, as well as with local parties such as Fluxys and Gasunie and the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam. After all, to make the energy transition work on a large scale you have to join forces."