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Howden's role in the Energy Future

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Howden's role in the Energy Future


We need energy; to travel, network, heat or cool our homes, to make products, charge our phones, to see in the dark, to live. We also need more of it. It’s difficult to imagine our lives without a form of energy, such as electricity. All our functions and comforts are entirely dependent on electricity. But with growing pressure to transition away from the use of fossil fuels, the energy system must adapt and evolve to a clean and sustainable for a secure energy future and preserve the needs of future generations. It will take innovation, collaboration and determination from industries, experts and governments.

Learn more about our innovative solutions on our Energy and Renewables page

Since the beginning, over 160 years ago, Howden is a company that has continued to design and engineer air and gas handling equipment to enable and optimise forms of energy driving critical processes. Today, we support our customers across the world and by combining our expertise and strong portfolio of existing products, we have been swift to respond to our customers’ energy and production requirements.

Howden’s technologies are supporting our customers with their environmental goals, across a number of industries, three key techniques depending on their needs: a shift in energy mix; carbon capture; and improving efficiency while reducing wastage. We are proud that our technology and expertise is adapting to the transition and making a real contribution to our customers’ net zero targets.

Our vision and purpose at Howden is to enable our customers’ vital processes, which advance a more sustainable world. Our insight and practical experience is supporting our customers in the energy transition. We understand that key industries such as oil and gas built the foundations of what we have around us and today and support a number of vital processes. With energy production – mainly the burning of fossil fuels – accounting for around three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions, we are supporting key industries to reduce their carbon emissions, energy consumption and feed in alternative and in some cases, wasted energy sources, such as steam.

Energy mix

Today when we consider energy sources, we think about coal, oil, gas, nuclear and clean energy; hydropower, solar, wind, biofuels. But if we go back a couple of centuries ago, our energy mixes where relatively homogeneous and over time, the transition from one source to another was incredibly slow. The speed and scale of the energy transformation we need today in moving to a predominantly low-carbon energy is therefore a new challenge.

As an energy carrier, hydrogen is playing an increasingly important role in decarbonisation of multiple industries and accelerating the global energy transition. With over 100 years of experience in the compression of hydrogen, Howden in involved in industry leading projects that will be instrumental in the energy transition by, amongst other things, advancing the environmental hydrogen eco-system and modernising industries that solely rely on fossil fuels.

As a leading global provider of mission critical air and gas handling products, managing and optimising hydrogen is not new to Howden. With thousands of active references on hydrogen compression alone, our experience in the field is certainly very significant. Our reciprocating compressors – both diaphragm compressors and piston compressors – have been key in driving this industry forward. Our Burton Corblin Diaphragm Compressors, invented by Henri Corblin in 1916, provide zero contamination, leak-tight compression of any gas and can reach high pressures of up to 3000 bar. Our Thomassen piston compressors provide one of the most trusted solutions in the industry, especially when high pressure and significant flow rates are required.

Projects large and small will be necessary for a worldwide shift to more renewables in the energy mix, and Howden has proven its ability to deliver on all scales including the largest hydrogen compression system in the world. Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC) upgraded two of its existing refineries and in 2015 and 2016, Howden delivered Thomassen compressors to the engineering firm Fluor to build the largest API618 reciprocating compressor system ever constructed for hydrogen service. The eight cylinders Thomassen C-85 reciprocating compressor was delivered within a challenging one-year deadline. The compressor is one in a series of six, delivered over a six-month period, which processes more than 1,000,000 Nm3/h of high pressure hydrogen. This project was a key milestone, as very similar compressor technology has then been used lately by Howden in several renewable hydrogen compression applications, where hydrogen is produced by electrolysis. This highlights the importance of the link between the traditional energy industry and the increasingly popular renewable hydrogen, where reliable and well proven solutions can be adopted to improve safety and accelerate the evolution of process performance in fast growing industries and demonstrate the advantages of renewable energy.

Across the world, governments are accelerating deployment of alternative energy source infrastructures such as Hydrogen refuelling stations. Howden is proud to supply compressors in the world’s largest hydrogen refuelling station (HRS): the Beijing Daxing HRS in China. The Daxing HRS has the capacity to produce 4.8 tonnes per day of hydrogen and refuel up to 600 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, including large vehicles such as trucks and buses. The Daxing HRS is part of the 200,000 square-meter Beijing International Hydrogen Energy Demonstration Zone. In this project, Howden diaphragm compressors were selected, showing again the credibility of our product brands and how technologies that have been used for decades in the industry now provide important building blocks to the new hydrogen economy.

Decarbonise through carbon capture
A challenge many industries have focused on is carbon capture, storage and utilisation (CCUS). There is broad agreement across the energy community that CCUS remains necessary to reduce the impact of where fossil fuels are used to hit the CO2 reduction targets set out by the Paris agreement and COP26.  The technology has been acknowledged as a huge potential in decarbonising the global economy and we're already seeing a steady rise of such projects worldwide. 

The International Energy Agency (IEA) roadmap report on Net Zero by 2050 advocates that the more decarbonisation there is in future energy settings, the greater the role CCUS will be. Under the IEA's Announced Pledges Scenario, where all governments’ climate commitments are set to be met in full and on time, carbon capture capacity is estimated to grow to 350 Mt CO2 per year by 2030 - currently 40 Mt CO2 per year.

Our involvement in CCUS has seen us provide gas handling solutions for all the different technologies currently available in the market. Howden has participated in the development of the first rotating adsorption machine, and has also supported traditional solvent based technologies with fans and compressors. Consistent with our vision, we continue to collaborate with other leaders in this field to enable the different CCUS technologies with our gas handling solutions, and we are contributing to the creation of an ecosystem of technology partners that can tackle the challenge of carbon capture.

Addressing climate change will require investment in technologies that help to limit future emissions and with our Research and Development (R&D) initiatives, our developments remains ongoing with new solutions to advance sustainable development and technologies that effectively capture and store CO2 with increase efficiencies in a cost-effective way.

Recover and reduce energy waste

Howden’s existing product ranges and solutions go beyond facilitating new energy sources to enable the energy transition, but also recover and reuse energy that would be otherwise wasted. With our steam turbines, mechanical vapour compression, low grade waste heat and heat pumps, we have installed units across the globe bringing a renewed focus to operational efficiency.

We have a long track record in the production of steam turbines. These play a strong role in the waste to energy sector as well as more traditional industries. Similarly, our Kuhnle, Kopp & Kausch compressors and ExVel turbo fans bring net energy savings and an adaption of technology that brings improvements to even the most traditional of uses. Our air lubrication systems also reduce fuel consumption: where we have created air flow under the hull of a ship, we’ve seen a reduction in fuel consumption of over 5%; a significant saving generating fast payback on emissions reduction.

While the screw expander we designed for a major customer has allowed energy recovery from streams as low as 90C, we have also had success with the work we are doing to expand our capability in NH3 compression.  This can be used to promote heat production from very low temperature heat sources, using electric power as the energy source – all ways to generate heat without use of fossil fuels. We anticipate further successes as our other product launches come on stream.

These are just some examples of how Howden’s existing products are delivering solutions for our customers which support their vital processes and produce significant impact on emissions and wastage.

To accelerate the energy transition, it will require collaboration and a blend of approaches working together; scaling up new renewable energy sources, capturing emissions and reusing wasted energy, there is no one solution. At Howden, our customers’ requirements and goals are different and we work with them to develop the right solution. We understand that this is indeed a transition and processes must be managed with great care and support. The combination of our expertise, technology and innovation has already give us a significant role in enabling a secure energy system, with plenty more to follow.

Article Date

Friday, 08 April 2022



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