January 2023, Austria – Great developments this year stem from some regrettable events that have sounded a wake-up call for Europe and much of the world. The war in the ukraine has made clear that the EU must achieve energy independence sooner rather than later, and projections of accelerated climate change have underscored that this independence needs to be based on clean energy.
The positive developments that we have been observing in the hydrogen economy over the past five years are thus accelerating – also in the hydrogen mobility pace, where Worthington plays. Europe is putting action and money behind words. In the spring, the European Commission (EC) introduced the REPowerEU plan to secure a clean energy supply independent of Russia and has since doubled the funding for it; Austria, where our European headquarters are located, has finalised its hydrogen strategy; the EC also approved €5.2bn for Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI) this autumn, projects like Hy2Use which will increase low-carbon hydrogen output by 340,000 tonnes annually.
Europe is home to Worthington’s Sustainable Energy Solutions business, which is dedicated to offering on-board fuelling systems and services, as well as gas containment solutions and services for the storage, transport and distribution of hydrogen.
Worthington is the largest designer and manufacturer of pressure vessels in Europe, with over 1,600 employees working at facilities in Austria, Germany, Poland, and Portugal. With the lightest composite and steel low and high pressure cylinders available, the company designs and makes solutions for alternative fuels, industrial gases, and technical gases.
The public dollars are also being matched by private investment. In Italy and Croatia, for example, investors are building hydrogen valleys. Major oil companies like BP are evolving and investing heavily in the transition to clean energy.
Public transport managers will be major buyers of clean hydrogen and right now, we are working together with Vienna’s public authorities – Wien Energie (energy company), the Wiener Netze (integrated grid operator), and the Wiener Linien (public transport authority) – to supply them with hydrogen storage and transport solutions. Our products will be used with hydrogen refuelling stations for a new hydrogen city bus line.
© Worthington Industries
The Wiener Netze will use Worthington transport and storage solutions, like this 20-ft. container, for the storage and transport of green hydrogen.
To mention one final highlight of 2022: hydrogen’s visibility in the public eye has grown massively. A few years ago, I would talk about hydrogen and people would listen politely for a few minutes before changing the topic. Now, hydrogen is a hot topic and I constantly hear people outside the industry talking about it – without me even instigating that conversation! Hydrogen has become a mainstream technology.
The big wins in 2022 and why…
Technology. Connections. Capacity.
These are the big wins in 2022, in our view at Worthington. In terms of technology, we opened a new composite cylinder facility in Austria with advanced equipment, an in-house design centre, and an assembly centre for larger gas containment systems. These capabilities allow us more control over the value chain and, make us less vulnerable to supply chain disruptions.
Becoming fitter in an uncertain world is an extension of the strategy that backed our 2021 acquisition of PTEC, a German hydrogen component design and production centre located in the North Rhine Westphalia technology hub. In Poland we have followed the same strategy with enhancements to our asset mix that will improve our output efficiency. In addition, we expanded our composite capabilities at our Portugal facility, from which we supply companies that manufacture light utility vehicles such as streetsweepers and forklifts.
The scientific knowledge connected to hydrogen technology is growing so fast that no one person can attain an overview of what’s out there. The next best thing is to make friends with a group of experts who can supply you with the knowledge you need and help you reduce your blind spots. Therefore, we have devoted resources to building our network of connections to EU policy makers, funding organizations, and research institutes, like Hycenta, the Hydrogen Center Austria.
The installed capacity for manufacturing systems to store, transport, and use hydrogen is way below the projected demand. Therefore, our technology investments also serve to support a capacity expansion that is in step with the growing demand for containment systems for compressed hydrogen.
What needs to happen next?
Before we consider what needs to happen next, let’s start with what we can manage. We need to continue developing standards for hydrogen manufacturing and technology. This means qualifications for country of origin and requirements for green certification. Europe needs to align on funding and grants and to provide each country with centralised access. In addition, we need to reduce the bureaucracy attached to applying for funding.
The European Union (EU) also needs to strengthen its commitment to establishing a refuelling map for hydrogen mobility that ensures the maximum distance between stations is 100km.
And though it was out of fashion for a while, we need a commitment to technology openness – this could mean atomic energy for green hydrogen, as long as it enables independence from Russia and other non-democratic energy suppliers.
The view on 2023, through the lens of Worthington
We see many trends that could serve as tailwinds for our business. Hydrogen-fuelled vehicles will grow more attractive as the battery vehicle supply chain becomes more volatile, which means higher demand for onboard fuelling systems used in passenger and commercial vehicles, as well as our solutions for the hydrogen refuelling infrastructure.
The EU will set more aggressive targets for meeting climate goals, and this will increase the attractiveness of our mobility portfolio. Market standards will become more uniform, which will lead to production efficiencies for us.
We are well positioned to keep pace, or, ideally to become a pace-setter. We are pursuing our commitment to Net Zero in an intelligent, strategic way. Hydrogen thought leaders – like the people at the Wiener Netze and OEMs for commercial vehicles – know our brand and understand it as a mark of quality, safety and innovative technologies. We will continue to work on new business models that put tailored hydrogen mobility solutions within reach for transit authorities large and small.
About Worthington Industries
Worthington Industries Europe is the largest designer and manufacturer of pressure vessels in the region with over 1,600 employees working at facilities in Austria, Poland and Portugal. Worthington is the first in its industry to incorporate sustainable practices into its long-term business strategy. With the lightest composite and steel low- and high-pressure cylinders available, Worthington designs and makes solutions for technical gases, industrial gases, and alternative fuels. The Company invests strategically in production facilities that serve the sustainable mobility market with gas-storage, transport and onboard fueling systems for cars, buses, trucks and more.
Worthington Industries (NYSE:WOR) is a leading industrial manufacturing company delivering innovative solutions to customers that span many industries including transportation, construction, industrial, agriculture, retail and energy. Worthington is North America’s premier value-added steel processor and producer of laser welded products; and a leading global supplier of pressure cylinders and accessories for applications such as fuel storage, water systems, outdoor living, tools and celebrations. The Company’s brands, primarily sold in retail stores, include Coleman®, Bernzomatic®, Balloon Time®, Mag Torch®, Well-X-Trol®, General®, Garden-Weasel®, Pactool International® and Hawkeye™. Worthington’s WAVE joint venture with Armstrong is the North American leader in innovative ceiling solutions.
Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Worthington operates 51 facilities in 15 states and seven countries, sells into over 90 countries and employs approximately 7,500 people. Founded in 1955, the Company follows a people-first philosophy with earning money for its shareholders as its first corporate goal. Relentlessly finding new ways to drive progress and practicing a shared commitment to transformation, Worthington makes better solutions possible for customers, employees, shareholders and communities.