banner image

Howden and the Hydrogen Economy - Executive Interview

banner image mobile

Howden and the Hydrogen Economy - Executive Interview


Leading up to Reuters Hydrogen 2022, Ross B Shuster, Chief Executive Officer of Howden, spoke with Jon Harman, Head of Renewables at Reuters Events, on the energy transition and Howden’s innovative role in developing the hydrogen economy.  

Topics covered during the interview included:

  • Key challenges of implementing the hydrogen economy at large scale
  • Preparing the necessary infrastructure to move both gas and liquid hydrogen effectively
  • Creating a secure energy future with hydrogen
  • Howden’s projects across storage, steel, and mobility, accelerating the adoption of hydrogen globally



Jon: Welcome to our Reuters events energy executive briefing with me Jon Harman, Head of Renewables and also the lead on the Reuters impact Climate Change initiative. I'm excited to be joined today by Ross Shuster the Chief Executive Officer of Howden. Howden is a leading global provider of mission critical air and gas handling products who helps advancements towards a more sustainable world. So hello and welcome Ross.


Ross: Thank you Jon. Glad to meet you today.


Jon: Thank you. So to kick start the conversation for our audience who aren't aware what is Howden's role in the energy transition and the hydrogen economy at large.


Ross: Let me start by explaining Howden a little bit more generally. As you mentioned Howden is a global leader in air and gas handling, and I would argue that our technologies are probably the broadest of any company, stretching across compression, fans and steam turbines. The company is 168 years old, and was founded and is still headquartered in Scotland. But obviously the company has gone through many changes in its history. Today we're truly a global company. We have approximately 6400 colleagues located in 35 countries around the world and our products are installed in more than 160 countries. Our technologies apply very broadly across many industries. We are a leader in mining ventilation. We're also a global leader in wastewater providing compression for the aeration which is needed for wastewater treatment. We are involved in abroad number of industrials from refrigeration to metals and cement. And then our largest segment is that of energy and renewables. In the energy and renewables segment we are broadly positioned across the entire energy spectrum. We are very much involved in traditional energy with DeNOx and desulfurization of fossil fuel plants. We are involved in nuclear power, in both fusion, fission and the emerging modular reactor type of technologies.  And as we talk about renewables, we're very broadly engaged with biomass waste-to-energy plants as well as  what is now our fastest growing market, which is probably not a surprise for you, which is renewable hydrogen. In fact our history with hydrogen goes back 100 years. It was one of our companies, Burton Corblin, which actually invented the first diaphragm compressor which remains a key technology for hydrogen compression today. Around the world we have about 3,000,000 horsepower of compression activity in hydrogen-rich environments. Today very much focused on the the hydrogen ecosystem and hydrogen economy.


Jon: Thank you so so quite the experience. So what are the key challenges in implementing hydrogen economy and at scale?


Ross: I think there is two challenges that really stand out and they are obviously interrelated. One is the cost of renewable hydrogen and the other is the infrastructure that goes along with building out a hydrogen economy. As you well know, while the cost of green hydrogen is coming down, it is still at a premium, probably 2Xtraditional energy sources. However, that that gap is closing quickly and it's closing quickly for a number of reasons. Obviously, the sources of renewable energy, such as solar and wind, are becoming much more cost effective.  Then the hydrogen ecosystem itself is becoming more cost effective. One of the things we work on with our customers is looking at our part of the hydrogen economy, compression, and examining how we can lower the costs of compression, which are not minor in terms of both the capital and the operating spend associated with it. We also work with our clients and and the industry about the overall ecosystem and how our technologies can actually make that ecosystem more cost effective. Then relative to the second area, infrastructure, the great thing about renewable hydrogen is also one of the challenges. The great thing about it is it's a great conduit to move renewable power from where it can be created, cost effectively from wind and solar, to where the demand is. But obviously, to do that cost effectively it takes the infrastructure for that movement.  For there be pipelines and trailer transport, whether it be in gaseous form or liquid form, and those are all areas which we are involved with our clients to help them solve those types of challenges.


Jon: OK, So what will it take as a as a broader picture discussion, what will it take to create a a secure energy future with hydrogen?


Ross:  There is absolutely no doubt that hydrogen will be part of the energy future and a secure energy future.  It is obvious is that hydrogen is the most abundant chemical substance in the universe. It solves a lot of issues like we talked about. One is how do you take energy where it can be created from renewable sources cost effectively and get it to where the demand is. So there's a lot of pluses around it, but as I mentioned earlier talking about the challenges of cost and infrastructure, it is going to take getting to scale, and the key of getting to scale is what I think we're already starting to see over the last two or three years. , It is going to take cooperation between and alignment between public opinion and government activities, policies and even subsidies, and then private investment., I think we're starting to see this happening now. Looking at the things that have changed such as public opinion around the importance of renewable energy and around hydrogen being part of that future of renewable energy. You also now see governments around the world making hydrogen part of their strategic plans. You see this from China to India to the UK, to the Americas, all of these countries putting hydrogen at the forefront of what they want to accomplish. Obviously with those two things, public opinion and government support, in place it's a logical follow-on that you see private companies, like Howden and others, investing behind that ecosystem. It is that alignment which is really what it is going to take to get the type of investment to really accelerate the drive to renewable hydrogen.


Jon: OK, interesting point. So talking about cooperation, so how is Howden supporting their customers in their energy transition and helping them meet their environmental as well as their operational goals?


Ross: From a Howden perspective, we are in what I would call an enviable, and I would probably even go as far as saying in a fun position, in the renewable hydrogen ecosystem.  I say that because the offerings of technologies and solutions we have are both broad and agnostic to hydrogen form and end-use. If you think about the hydrogen ecosystem and one part of it being the creation of hydrogen, we are agnostic to the type of

Electrolysers and the type of renewable energy being used to create the hydrogen. We have products that can take and deal with large scale hydrogen compression and we have products that can that can deal with smaller scale production. If you think about it in terms of the infrastructure and the transportation challenges that go along with hydrogen, we are involved both in pipeline transportation and, we are involved in trailer transportation. We get involved whether the hydrogen is being transported and stored in gaseous form or in liquid form. And then if you go far to the different potential uses for hydrogen we’re very much involved in mobility, green steel, biofuels, ammonia and others. So we sit in a great position. One where we see the entire ecosystem developing and we are not tied to a particular product or a particular solution. We can get involved regardless of what the end use is, regardless of the form of hydrogen or how it's produced. , Because of this we generally start off very early with customers in a consultative role to help evaluate what the best solution is for them and not having to be driven by a particular type of technology.


Jon: OK, so we've talked a lot about products and solutions, so let's turn to projects so projects that Howden have been involved with that is helping accelerate the energy transition.


Ross: As a leader in hydrogen compression there's a large number of projects which we have been involved with. Many of them are firsts. To highlight some of the first and largest projects we have been involved with; one of them is the largest hydrogen refuelling station, which is a cooperation with HyPower. This is a project in China where the site is capable of fuelling 600 or more large scale vehicles per day. We are also involved in the first climate neutral E-fuels plant in Chile. Also we see a large future in green steel and in this area we have been involved in the world's first green steel project with Hybrit in Sweden. And again, that's a segment and an end use for green hydrogen that we believe is one that will see rapid adoption and acceleration. In Europe, we have also been involved with a large flagship underground storage facility in France.  And also in Europe we've been involved with one of the largest biofuel plants which is being transitioned from a fossil plant to a biofuel plant. So again, a really broad range both in terms of geography, as well as in terms of where it sits in the ecosystem.


Jon: Yeah, I mean it's been fascinating talking to you, and it's obviously a particularly important time for hydrogen right now and you know, we've talked a lot about the products, the successes, the project, so if I was to ask you for a final thought or a final comment for our audience watching today the thing you really want them to take from this conversation, what would that be?


Ross: I think everyone that's listening to this is as big of a believer in hydrogen as I am, and that we are at Howden. I would just go back to the one point I made earlier, that I believe that to accelerate the adoption of hydrogen globally, it is going to take cooperation.

Cooperation between companies like ourselves - we've got a number of cooperation agreements where we're cooperating with other companies that have complementary offering to us. We're also working with governments to both advise them on where the opportunities are, and advise them about how they can help accelerate the market. So I think the biggest thing in a market like this which is both early stage, and is quickly growing, is going to need cooperation between private companies, and between private companies and government organisations, to look at how we accelerate the hydrogen economy.


Jon: Well Ross it's been great talking to you today. Thank you very much. A lot of food for thought for our audience.


Ross: Likewise Jon, I very much enjoyed the discussion.


Jon: Take care, thank you.


Find out more about Howden’s compression solutions across the hydrogen value chain.

Article Date

Sunday, 01 May 2022



If you would like to submit an enquiry please get in touch.