H2 Q&A with Lauri Vartia: ‘We need to focus on cases that deliver results’

Lauri Vartia is Linde’s Senior Manager for Clean Hydrogen in Northern Europe. He has more than two decades of experience working with industrial gases at Linde, and in his current role, focuses on charting a path for clean hydrogen in the region.

What do you see as the most exciting thing about hydrogen's potential?

On one level, I get excited about hydrogen because it supports my personal values. I'm extremely interested in figuring out how we can make the world more sustainable and with hydrogen, I see huge potential to do that.

I’m thinking especially of green hydrogen produced via electrolysis with fossil-free electricity. It really has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions in a number of industrial processes. I see it as a key enabler for reaching ambition decarbonization targets and for cutting emissions, and that’s a great motivator for me and for Linde.

Lauri Vartia, Linde

What are some of the biggest challenges in realizing that potential?

The technology has come a long way and costs are coming down but it’s still a bit too expensive compared to fossil-based alternatives. There is a need for additional joint efforts to find more commercially feasible ways to convert fossil fuel-based processes to CO2-free solutions.

Another challenge when it comes to green hydrogen is electricity supply. To scale up production we will need large amounts of electricity – and specifically green electricity produced from renewable sources like wind, solar, and hydro. We have capacity to demonstrate that it works, but scaling up production and dealing with the costs of transmission needs to be further addressed.

Another issue related to scaling up has to do with the electrolysers themselves. Nowadays, their dimensions means you don’t have that much power per square meter. Electrolysers need to become more compact and provide more capacity in a similar or smaller footprint.

Given those challenges, do you think the focus on hydrogen is justified?

I think the focus on hydrogen is justified as hydrogen has vast potential to reduce CO2 emissions, and it certainly helps to have more people thinking about how hydrogen can help us solve emissions challenges.

It’s great that there’s so much interest, but we also need to focus on concrete cases that deliver results and work to push those forward.

What role can your company play to help realize hydrogen’s potential?

Linde has been working with hydrogen for more than 100 years and today it accounts for roughly 10 percent of our global turnover. We’ve also invested to build the world’s biggest PEM electrolyser - a 24-megawatt PEM electrolyser in Germany to produce green hydrogen. And that was an important signal that we are serious about creating a clean hydrogen ecosystem.

We’ve also taken a really proactive role as an advocate to push things forward in different forums globally and at the EU level. Here in the Nordics, we’ve put effort to get hydrogen up on the national agenda. We can also provide access to a wealth of knowledge and competence that we’ve built up over decades of working with hydrogen globally.

We have a unique role to play, because we have thorough experience and are involved in every step of the hydrogen value chain; from production and processing through distribution and storage to everyday industrial and consumer applications.

The backbone has always been working together with our customers to create added value. We want to provide solutions. That’s why we always involve our customers in developing new applications - and hydrogen is no different.

What are some specific examples of promising hydrogen applications you’ve developed with customers?

We see industrial applications for hydrogen as extremely interesting because the potential emissions impact is quite substantial. Looking at the steel industry, for example, many producers want to decarbonize and shift away from fossil-fuel processes to ones with zero emissions. Together with Ovako, we showed it was possible to heat steel using hydrogen instead of fossil-based fuels. And more R&D projects are ongoing.

Another interesting area for Linde is heavy transportation - replacing fossil fuels with hydrogen in trucks, buses, and ships. One concrete example we announced recently is the launch of a hydrogen powered ferry together with Norled, a leading ferry operator in Norway. 

Where do you see hydrogen developments going in the years ahead?

We will continue to see an increasing interest from companies and governments toward zero emissions production, and continuous ambitious decarbonization goals, which will be a driving force for developments. This is very positive.

It is difficult to paint a clear picture of how things will look in another ten years. The potential with hydrogen is so huge that even if we only realize a part of it, we will still make a big difference. I am certain that hydrogen will undoubtedly play a very important role.

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