Negotiating the Covid-19 environment has been a key priority for the new CEO of the British Compressed Gases Association (BCGA), Ellen Daniels, this year.

Daniels took over from Doug Thornton in April and has been keen to build on the vital role BCGA members played in providing medical gases and other related gases and equipment during the pandemic…

gasworld (GW): How has the BCGA supported the industry this year as it fought, and continues to fight, to save lives in the battle against Covid-19?

Ellen Daniels (ED): First and foremost, at the start of the pandemic, we pushed successfully to have the sector classed as an essential industry and support its key workers. We liaised with government to ensure that the industry had the support it needed to operate in this difficult environment.

We were incredibly appreciative of the government’s actions in relaxing driver hours and the easement of MOTs during this period which – like other critical industries at the frontline of supporting the national effort – made a significantly positive impact in ensuring we could use our delivery resources effectively to meet demand.

To enable our members to supply oxygen in cylinders, measures were also drawn up to ensure these are in plentiful supply too. This was achieved through several initiatives including our work with government regulators to safely introduce more cylinders into operation.

BCGA also provided a clear voice to the media on the issues surrounding the use of oxygen in healthcare environments.

GW: Are there any lessons learned from the pandemic that you can share with our readers?

ED: Collaboration has been essential. In the early days of the pandemic, we saw many ways BCGA members initiated a massive response to meet the demands faced and work together to support the NHS. Employees working across our industry have significant experience of the UK healthcare landscape. They wanted to use the knowledge gained to contribute and make a positive difference.

Many of our members are global and they shared and applied learnings from situations in Italy and Spain.

We saw how our industry was also capable of designing, delivering and installing bulk and cylinder oxygen supply to the new Nightingale Hospital in London in a matter of weeks. This was a great achievement. Ultimately, our members worked together to make huge advances.

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GW: What would you say have been the mega trends in the industrial gases industry this year?

ED: Hydrogen. The UK Government’s Green Industrial Revolution has been very supportive of it, proposing it to power homes and even neighbourhoods. However, we need to push the benefits of hydrogen for the automotive sector too and position it as a viable option.

We were really pleased to see several commitments relating to hydrogen in the Chancellor’s recent Spending Review, aiming to create more jobs and funding towards low emission technology.

GW: Has the BCGA been working on any significant projects in 2020?

ED: Covid-19 has dominated our activities, along with preparations for Brexit.

This year, we have extended our reach and joined the Alliance of Chemical Associations (ACA) and the REACH Cross Sector Group. Both groups will provide the BCGA with an opportunity to discuss the key factors surrounding Britain’s exit from the EU. We have also been providing members with support in the run up to the end of the Transition Period, establishing a Brexit Working Group, increasing communications with members on this and also had our own Brexit Webinar in December (16th) to discuss some of the key issues for members.

We also launched our campaign to ban the retail sales of nitrous oxide. Supplying nitrous oxide for inhalation, without appropriate medical licence and qualified supervision, is an offence under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. The BCGA was instrumental in working with government to include nitrous oxide in the Act, but fears the situation is escalating have prompted the call for an outright ban of sales direct to consumers.

The Psychoactive Substances Act outlawed the knowing or reckless supply of nitrous oxide for inhalation and has also had a good effect in curbing the N20 trade. However, there remains a huge and growing problem in the supply of 8g mini-canisters of the gas.

There are legitimate and important uses of gas, which would not be affected by a ban on retail sales, such as medical gas in hospitals, clinics, dental practices and midwifery. The use of nitrous oxide for whipping cream is how many of the 8g canisters are sold, for illegitimate use. This is very problematic and introducing the retail ban would be instrumental in addressing this.

GW: What significant projects will the BCGA be working on in 2021? 

ED: We will build on the vital role BCGA members played in providing medical gases and other related essential gases and equipment during the pandemic.

BCGA will also be preparing to work with the government on transport, standards and regulations in a post-Brexit era.

The Pfizer vaccine will also draw attention to dry ice and we’ll work on that too. We’re really proud of the contributions the industry has made in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, and will continue to support this fight into the New Year.

We’ll also push for a greater mention of hydrogen, CNG and LNG to be included in government policy.

BCGA will also be looking to promote the industry to attract new talent looking for rewarding careers in STEM - while the results from this year’s member survey point to the fact that more work in lobbying and communications, training and diversity will support the excellent technical expertise already offered to members.

To support these projects, collaboration with stakeholders will be vital. These are big issues for the gases industry in both the UK, EU and worldwide. We are keen to work with companies both within the industry and wider supply chain to progress these projects and succeed.

GW: What future do you see for the gases market in the UK?

ED: Covid-19 has placed many changes on the way we will live in the future. The expertise and skills in our membership and the emphasis placed on innovation means we are well-placed to support key sectors and services in the future as the economy adapts to the changes ahead.

This is a dynamic industry which impacts so many aspects of our every-day lives, from technology and transport to food and drink and more. The sector’s emphasis on developing products and services to ensure a safe, successful and healthy nation will support those changes moving forward.

GW: Finally, in the spirit of the time of year and theme of the series, if you could have one industrial gases related thing for Christmas, what would it be and why?

ED: A Brexit Deal, delivered by Santa on a hydrogen-powered sleigh!

A Christmas Twist: The 12 Days of Content series continues tomorrow with an exclusive interview with Equigas.