Very simple, because you either need some fresh ideas or you want to test your existing plans with an objective second opinion. My goal is to give you the maximum value in the minimum time. At sbh4, we work at high velocity: fast and in the right direction.
As a business consultant coming from an operational background, I offer very practical and pragmatic consulting. My approach is 'down-to-earth', I try to use a jargon-free vocabulary and avoid process-heavy methodologies. The scope, budget and timescale of each engagement is customised to your requirements.
Consulting case study 1 – Hydrogen
Climate change is a reality that confronts our world. Decarbonisation of energy supply and industrial processes will be essential to mitigate the impact of carbon dioxide emissions to our atmosphere. Hydrogen as a renewable or low-carbon energy vector will have a major role to play in securing a sustainable future. Numerous clients have approached me to better understand the market opportunity for their products in this green-tech sector. Financial sponsors and fund managers have sought my opinion on the most likely winners in this space to guide their investments. Consulting firms have also requested expert advice to support strategy studies that they have been engaged in. And leadership teams within operating companies have benefited from my expertise as they reflect on the opportunities and threats that hydrogen and other decarbonised energy gases may present to their business or how hydrogen may play a role in decarbonisation of their operations.
Thomas Heinrich, Managing Consultant at Nexant, April 2020:
"Stephen and I have been working together on a number of hydrogen projects. It has been a joy to exchange ideas with Stephen, given his excellent technical and market knowledge and collaborative approach.
Consulting case study 2 – E-fuels, e-methanol, e-fertilizers and power to liquids
Green hydrogen and captured CO2 are the building blocks to make syngas for e-fuels generated though the ‘power to liquids’ pathway. Sustainable fuels can also be produced from syngas derived from biomass or waste. The key unit operations are: alkaline, or PEM electrolysis followed by the reverse water gas shift reaction or co-electrolysis of CO2 and steam on a solid oxide electrolyser; Fischer Tropsch synthesis; and methanol synthesis. From e-methanol there are many fuel and chemical molecules such as gasoline or formaldehyde that can be produced. Fischer Tropsch generates a synthetic crude that can be refined to yield e-gasoline, e-diesel, and e-kerosene. These e-fuels have the advantage that they are carbon-neutral drop-in replacements for fossil fuels. Compatibility with existing fuels means that existing logistics and storage infrastructure can be used. Furthermore, they avoid the capital cost of replacing the vehicle, ship, train, or aeroplane that they are used in. At sbh4 we have supported investors with due diligence studies to evaluate start-ups in this space. We have also supported major development projects in Africa to scale up e-fuels production for export to Europe and advised on policy, standards and common user infrastructure development to ensure the region is attractive for inward investment.
Consulting case study 3 – CCUS and GHG Emissions reduction
Greenhouse gas emissions reduction is a dominant theme at present and will be essential to meet the aspirations of The Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced using carbon capture and utilisation or storage. With 30 years of processing, purifying and commercial utilisation of gases such as carbon dioxide, I have the experience to guide companies through the decarbonisation maze to find cost effective, or profitable mitigation strategies. With international expertise in the energy sector, gas analysis, gas monitoring and refrigerant gases, I can also advise on emissions control strategies for the other potent greenhouse gases: methane, nitrous oxide and F-Gases. Hydrogen was top of the renewable energy agenda in 2020, driven by the publication of many hydrogen strategies and financial stimulus. Hydrogen derivatives, CCUS and e-fuels, and mitigation of other greenhouse gas emissions have more recently joined hydrogen in the green-tech spotlight.
Consulting case study 4 – M&A and investment due diligence
I have executed more than 20 M&A and investment due diligence transaction engagements since 2017. These were a mixture of buy-side, sell-side, commercial, technical and EHS due diligence engagements. Prior to working as a consultant, I was responsible for integrating specialty gases businesses acquired from Airgas, Praxair, Air Products, Gaspro, AGA and BOC into The Linde Group. Having seen the M&A process from the outside and the inside and the preparations and the post M&A integration I have a very rounded and pragmatic view of the full M&A process and its associated synergies, opportunities, and risks. In 2022 I was engaged by an investor to complete a buy-side technical and EHS due diligence of a green-field site integrated hydrogen, ammonia, CO2, helium, F-gases, specialty gases and industrial gases facility.
Paolo Farina, Consultant and Technical Gas Lead at Nexant, September 2020:
“Stephen was a fantastic project manager on a recent refrigerant gases M&A project we undertook. His direct and honest management philosophy was refreshing and certainly made a challenging project exciting and enjoyable”.
Consulting case study 5 – Bio coal, biochar, biomass and liquid biofuels as energy vectors
Solid biofuels such as wood have been used since man learned how to make fire. In its modern form, wood pellets are a high-volume energy vector for power generation. Bio coal, derived from wood, or biochar made from post-harvest biomass residues have some advantages over raw biomass due to reduced moisture content, higher energy density and better storage and handling properties. They can be used as substitutes for coal in energy systems and replace coke or petcoke as a reducing agent. Liquid biofuels already have a role to play in our energy systems. Synthetic diesel is made from refined cooking oils and bioethanol is blended with gasoline. Their role will grow and over time, they will be joined by bio-methanol from biomass gasification. These liquids can be substituted by e-fuels as renewable power generation ramps up and power to liquids technologies scale up and mature. Our industrial decarbonisation studies at sbh4 are increasingly leaning towards the use of biofuels as short-term drop-in replacements for fossil fuels. Hydrogen and ammonia will have their day, but availability and cost-effectiveness are favouring bioenergy in many of the cases we are exposed to.
With a career spanning 27 years in the Industrial Gases business, working for BOC and Linde, I have an intimate knowledge of this industry. I was active in all major business areas: tonnage pipeline supply, bulk process gases and packaged cylinder gases. Over that time, I spent 15 years in global strategic leadership roles and was heavily involved in acquiring and integrating business from Air Products, Airgas, AGA, Gaspro, Matheson, Praxair and Spectra Gases. I have also worked closely with Air Liquide joint venture companies and competed with Messer, Matheson Tri Gas and countless others. So, I have an insight into almost every major industrial gases company operating in the global arena today. For 18 years I was involved in Specialty Gases commercial, business and supply chain roles at a national, regional and global level. In the Specialty Gases product group, my expertise is probably unparalleled in terms of breadth and depth of exposure. Many of my insights have been published in a diverse range of business and industry journals worldwide.
Consulting case study 7 – Compressed Gas Cylinders and Valves
The pace of innovation is intense in compressed gas cylinders for hydrogen, industrial gases, and fuel gases. The expansion of the hydrogen economy has pulled for carbon fibre type 4 composite cylinders for static storage, on-board storage, and hydrogen distribution. Type 1, 2 and 3 cylinders have also enjoyed a period of growth and glass fibre wrapped type 2 cylinders and type 4 cylinders are cost effective alternatives to carbon fibre for HRS and hydrogen distribution applications. I have advised a regional gases company on the business benefits, commercialisation strategy and technical solutions for cylinder product development. Valve and cylinder manufacturers have also sought my advice, including growth strategy development with workshop facilitation and market evaluations. Additionally, institutional investors and PE firms regularly seek my opinions on companies in this sector to support valuations and investment decisions.
Consulting case study 8 – Gas Analysis Instrumentation
With 16 years of experience working hands-on with specialty gases at BOC and Linde, I have deep and broad exposure to leading instrumentation OEMs and many kinds of gas analysis techniques. My experience also extends to the markets where these gas analysers are used and the legislation changes and industry dynamics that are driving the growth of several applications in this sector. This expertise has attracted major global instrumentation suppliers to seek my advice. On their behalf, I have undertaken market research for M&A activities. My consulting services have also been used to develop and execute marketing campaigns in this sector and develop sales training materials. I also frequently write journal articles on health, safety and environmental topics that rely on fixed and portable gas detection equipment. Furthermore, research analysts and investors regularly seek my opinion about various instrumentation OEMs to enable accurate valuations and guide their investment decisions.
Consulting case study 9 – Industrial process decarbonisation
Increasingly, businesses are coming to sbh4 to support their decarbonisation strategy. In Europe, each M&A transaction must be accompanied by an ESG due diligence. So, companies in PE ownership are keen to demonstrate that they have a robust decarbonisation action plan and are making progress towards it. They know that achieving a good valuation multiple depends on their proven pathway to decarbonisation. Our role ranges from decarbonisation equipment technology selection to budgetary cost estimates for the required transition to finding sources and suppliers for carbon-neutral energy vectors. Business operations in emerging markets are also motivated to decarbonise due to pressure from international customers and the desire from privately owned businesses to simply “do the right thing”.
Consulting case study 10 – Business Strategy Development and Growth Planning
For much of my career at BOC Gases and Linde Gas, I was responsible for the Specialty Gases portfolio globally. This product group is seen as a major growth engine within the wider industrial and medical gases industry. Business development and planning for growth were permanently on the agenda. The skills that I learned are of direct relevance to industrial gases businesses that wish to grow in this area and transferrable to related industrial sectors where the markets were similar such as gas analysers and gas detection equipment. Since leaving Linde, I have supported several companies to plan and execute growth strategies that will increase their exposure to the hydrogen economy and decarbonisation in general. The process generally follows a route of situational analysis, market assessment and business development. The actions often focus around adjustments in the product ranges and strategic focus to exploit growth opportunities. The internal product and process changes have frequently been supported by internal training and external marketing communication programmes.
Consulting case study 11 – Electrolysis for green hydrogen
Green hydrogen has become synonymous with the electrolysis of water using renewable power. This is an area where sbh4 has frequently been engaged to advise project developers with technology selection and support electrolyser start-ups with their innovation and business development strategies. I also provide a training course for World Hydrogen Leaders on electrolysis technologies and run the masterclass in this area at their World Electrolysis Congress. In 2021 I specified more than 2GW of electrolyser capacity for various projects in Asia. Prior to my work at sbh4, I product managed two electrolyser product ranges for Linde Gas. My expertise in this field has been used by the World Bank, IFC and Asian Development Bank to support projects they have been executing.
Client references available on request
We are proud of our work and client feedback. If you would like to review a client recommendation letter related to one of the above projects, please get in touch.
If you are confident that the best ideas already exist in your own mind, or in the people close to you, then coaching to convert that potential to profitable action might be appropriate. Coaching may also be suitable after an initial consulting engagement to ensure sustainable implementation.
100+ hydrogen, e-fuels and decarbonisation publications by the team at sbh4 consulting