Research and development

The Linde Group

Ongoing innovation and continuous, focused research and development activities are vital for the long-term success of a global technology company such as Linde. As a result, manifold activities were bundled and expanded in the new Technology & Innovation Corporate & Support Function in the 2015 financial year.

During the 2015 financial year, Linde spent a total of EUR 132 m on research and development (2014: EUR 106 million). As at 31 December 2015, there were 348 employees in total working in this field (2014: 390), of whom 221 in the Gases Division and 127 in the Engineering Division. To protect its innovations from the competition, Linde filed 287 new patents across the Group over the course of the past financial year. On 31 December 2015, 3,232 patents protected various Linde technologies. Many of them feature sustainability aspects, with more than 500 patents relating to chemicals & the environment, clean energy and hydrogen technology.

By drawing on the findings of its research, the Group is continuously moving into new areas of application for its gases and is constantly striving to make further improvements to its processes and plant technologies. This application development is almost always set in the context of commissions and therefore involves close liaison with customers, taking into account their requirements. The Linde Group pays particular attention to the environmental compatibility of its production processes. More than half of research and development projects in the year under review were also aimed at achieving environmental advantages.

To achieve these goals, Linde combines the skills in its Gases Division with those in its Engineering Division, whilst also involving leading institutions and companies in various cooperation projects. Linde is focusing, in particular, on the use and production of environmentally friendly H2 as a source of fuel. When it comes to hydrogen, Linde is also focusing on large-scale technical energy storage and the further processing of basic materials for the chemicals industry.

Once again during the year under review Linde was able to demonstrate its pioneering role in environmentally friendly hydrogen technology. A range of newly opened hydrogen filling stations in Germany, Austria, the US and Sweden are testimony to this. In October 2015, the joint venture H2Mobility, which has its registered office in Berlin, went into operation. This joint venture between various industrial corporations, including Linde, aims to gradually expand the network of hydrogen filling stations in Germany. The aim is to have around 400 hydrogen filling stations in operation by 2023. The demand for Linde’s hydrogen fuelling technology rose steadily in the period under review. This also increased the utilisation of the world’s first small-series production facility for hydrogen filling stations, based on the ionic compressor IC 90, which opened in 2014. The facility produced around 30 systems for various markets. Six systems were destined for the Japanese market alone thanks to a framework agreement between Linde and the Iwatani Cooperation.

In July 2015, the world’s largest plant for the generation of green hydrogen went into operation in EnergiePark Mainz. The joint venture is seen as a lighthouse project in the field of regenerative energy. The main aim of EnergiePark Mainz is to use excess electricity from regenerative electricity sources such as wind power plants to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen. The green hydrogen generated in this manner can be stored and then used later to generate electricity again, among other possible uses.

The liquefaction of air is another technology that Linde is enhancing in order to save energy. During this process, ambient air is liquefied using electricity. It can then be stored in cryogenic tanks and converted into electricity using an expansion turbine as and when required. The main advantage compared with other storage technologies is that liquid gas storage facilities can be set up anywhere, with no geological restrictions. Working with a partner from the power station and energy sector, Linde developed its first large-scale system during the year under review and is preparing the corresponding demonstration. At the same time, Linde is already working on the next generation of systems offering even better performance levels.

Over and above the innovations relating to products, applications and services, the Corporate & Support Function T & I pursues projects based on a broader understanding of innovation. The development of the H2Bike, an electric bike that runs on a fuel cell, bears testimony to Linde’s expertise in using hydrogen as an energy source. Linde’s contribution to the long-term commercialisation of hydrogen also includes the fact that it has created an attractive application example.

Gases Division

In the Gases Division, Linde invested EUR 84 m in research and development in 2015 (2014: EUR 72 m), focusing its activities on four customer segments of particular strategic importance: chemicals & energy, metallurgy & glass, food & beverages, and manufacturing.

Development projects focused on the development and improvement of environmentally friendly and sustainable production processes, e. g. by reducing emissions and gas-based water purification. This area also includes PLASTINUM Foam E, which replaces harmful propellants such as HCFCs or HFCs with CO2.

In addition, Linde forged ahead with intensifying and boosting the efficiency of customer processes with the aim of reducing energy requirements, increasing productivity and/or making it more flexible and reducing the total cost of ownership. Within this context, Linde developed solutions such as OXYGON XL in 2015. The solution for ladle preheating in the metal industry is setting new standards in terms of energy efficiency and flexibility.

The past reporting year also saw Linde make further improvements to its technology for cleaning surfaces in the manufacturing sector. Dry ice (low-temperature carbon dioxide) is used for environmentally-friendly and solvent-free cleaning. Linde was able to further strengthen the CRYOCLEAN® product family as a result.

In the field of lightweight automotive construction or additive manufacturing, Linde was able to support the production of new, high-performance materials, for example. Linde is working, among other things, on solutions to boost efficiency in the production of aluminium sheets for the automotive industry.

Another focal point of research and development activities last year was improving quality standards and the shelf life of foods along the entire value chain using cryogenic freezing and refrigerating, as well as protective packaging gases. In the year under review, Linde expanded its market-leading CRYOLINE® series of cryogenic freezers to include the CRYOLINE®SI immersion IQF freezer. The CRYOLINE®SI is an all-in-one solution that uses a liquid nitrogen bath followed by a tunnel freezer for the highest-quality IQF (individually quick frozen) food products. The CRYOLINE®SI is suitable for high-volume IQF products, such as prawns, chopped, cubed fruit, vegetables or meat and individual components for the manufacture of ready meals.

Increasing safety in production is also a key focal point of Linde’s R & D activities. In the 2015 financial year, Linde developed a nitrogen-based solution specifically for large-scale biomass silos that considerably reduces the risk of fire and ensures that any pockets of fire can be extinguished quickly and efficiently. One special project in the 2015 financial year was the use of digitalisation to further develop the cylinder business. Linde had already developed a smart cylinder valve for the healthcare sector in the past. The knowledge and experience gleaned from the LIV®IQ technology provide the basis for a digitalised solution that can be used in an industrial context. Field testing of the EVOS™ DCi cylinder valve started in December 2015. Linde was awarded a prize for the industrial design of the previous EVOS™ valve and digitalisation is the next logical step. The smart cylinder valve records key data such as the filling level and location independently and sends this information to the cloud.

In the food and beverages sector, the development and commercialisation of SLOVOX DropIn mark a key milestone. This technology can be used to pump additional oxygen into the enclosures of sea water fish farms. The additional oxygen helps to optimise living and growth conditions for the fish.

The promotion of research and development also remains a high priority for the healthcare business. Ongoing improvements to licensed products, coupled with new products and services, enable Linde to tap into new markets in this promising sector. In particular, the Group backs research which focuses on the medical applications of gases and on the development of devices and services that address the needs of patients with chronic respiratory diseases.

With this in mind, Linde reopened its research fund, which was launched in 2010, to new applications in the 2015 financial year and will be awarding further research grants. The REALfund (REAL = Research, Evolve, Advance, Lead) promotes clinical research and innovative research projects in respiratory medicine and is aimed at doctors, healthcare professionals and scientists. Around 40 applications were received from institutions across the globe within a very short space of time, including applications from highly renowned institutions.

Engineering Division

In the 2015 financial year, the Engineering Division spent a total of EUR 48 m on research and development activities (2014: EUR 34 m). As in previous years, this money was primarily allocated to the development of new and existing technologies in the product lines of natural gas plants, air separation plants, olefin plants, and hydrogen and synthesis gas plants. Linde is always looking for ways to make further improvements in the energy efficiency and environmental credentials of its plants.

Linde also forged ahead with a pilot project, supported by partners, relating to a substantially improved steam reformer process for producing synthesis gas in the 2015 financial year. This procedure is said to allow synthesis gas to be produced in a more energy-efficient manner and producing fewer emissions while using less vapour at the same time. In certain specific applications, CO2 can be processed as an additional feedstock, which has a positive impact on the environmental balance sheet. A pilot plant has been commissioned for this project at Linde’s site in Pullach, involving an investment of EUR 5 m.

As part of the large-scale natural gas processing project Amur (Amur GPP) in Russia, Linde has been able to bring a new procedure for integrated natural gas separation and nitrogen removal to the commercialisation phase. This procedure is characterised by a high CO2 tolerance level and has the potential to play a key role in the future exploitation of nitrogen-rich natural gas reserves or the use of tertiary oil recovery using nitrogen.

The 2015 financial year also saw Linde develop an innovative procedure for the separation of helium from natural gas and bring this procedure to the commercialisation stage. The method consists of integrated membrane and adsorption separation steps and allows even smaller quantities of helium to be produced in a cost-effective manner and independently of natural gas liquefaction plants.

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Research and development

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expenditure (in EUR m)

 

Number of employees

 

 

2015

 

2014

 

2013

 

2012

 

2011

 

2015

 

2014

 

2013

 

2012

 

2011

Gases Division

 

84

 

72

 

68

 

74

 

72

 

221

 

257

 

241

 

246

 

220

Engineering Division

 

48

 

34

 

24

 

27

 

26

 

127

 

133

 

126

 

139

 

122

Group

 

132

 

106

 

92

 

101

 

98

 

348

 

390

 

367

 

385

 

342

Linde AG

In the 2015 financial year, Linde AG spent a total of EUR 129 m (2014: EUR 128 m) on research and development (R & D), which was slightly less than the amount spent by The Linde Group (EUR 132 m). Where subsidiaries conduct research and development, they charge their costs to Linde AG on a cost-plus basis. This mark-up is eliminated at Group level. Licence fees paid to subsidiaries are also eliminated at Group level.

R & D expenditure in the Linde Gas Division came to EUR 103 m in 2015 (2014: EUR 105 m). In the Linde Engineering division, Linde AG invested EUR 26 m (2014: EUR 23 m) in the development of new and existing technologies for all the main types of plant.

As at 31 December 2015, Linde AG employed a total of 220 staff in research and development (2014: 233 employees). Of these, 118 employees (2014: 133 employees) were in the Linde Gas Division and 102 employees (2014: 100 employees) were in the Linde Engineering Division.