The 29th national seminar on industrial gases, organised by the All India Industrial Gases Manufacturers' Association (AIIGMA) took place in Kochi, India on 2nd and 3rd of February. gasworld was present to record the event and learn more about the current trends in the Indian gases market.

Over 250 people from all aspects of the industrial gas business attended the event, including a record number of 50 foreign delegates visiting the event.

Governor R.L. Bhatia of Kerala State, inaugurated the event and called upon the industrial gas sector to update itself with the latest technological advancements.

He said that the industrial gas sector was poised for a vibrant period thanks to the policy of liberalisation and steady growth of steel and other metallurgical industries. $quot;The sector has to streamline its activities to upgrade the manufacturing potential and improve the quality of products. It should also consider ways of better utilisation and maintenance of maximum safety.$quot;

Siddharth Patel, President of AIIGMA, said the industrial gas market was growing at a rapid pace. The expected growth rate was 20-25 percent per year over the next few years. India was the 18th largest industrial gas market in the world and was expected to be among the top five by 2020. The growth of steel and the pharmaceuticals sector as well as the emerging applications in glass, oil, electronics, fibre optics and food preservation would contribute to the growth of the industrial gas sector, he said.

The theme of the seminar this year was 'Safety and Customer Service Enhance Productivity'. Mr Patel informed the large audience of mainly independent gas companies and distributors that the Association was established in 1975. There were now 225 members across India and that AIIGMA was the only official body that represents the industry in India. He declared $quot;while industrial gases business represents a small part of India's economy it has a very important part to play, without gases, most industry would stop.$quot;

To emphasise the importance of industrial gases and the high growth expectations in India he presented some very bullish figures on the plans for the steel industry. $quot;Currently India is the 8th largest steel producer in the world, with 173 companies active in the steel sector in India. As Indians, we are very proud of what Tata and Mittal have achieved of late.$quot;

$quot;Demand for steel rose from 19 million tons last year (2005) to 29 million this year. Steel production capacity is expected to rise to 66 million tons in 2011/2 and reach a staggering 110 million tons by 2020.$quot; He also stated that the chemicals business will be worth US$60 billion by 2020.

Following the vote for thanks to Mr Patel and to Governor Bhatia, Mr Kocher opened the conference to the guest speakers from within India and also international delegates.

Sam Zouaghi of Cryostar, France presented a paper on the LNG/CNG distribution chain - a subject of growing importance within India let alone the world. He covered the development of LNG as a production and distribution mode for natural gas and declared that there had been 33,000 LNG shipments since 1959 without one major incident, equivalent to 60 million miles of travel. The importance of LNG had increased in the past decade with more production from the Arabian Gulf area and north Africa and that the cost of carriers (ships) was decreasing all the time. Cryostar are very active in the LNG sector and re-liquefaction processes so as not to waste LNG or CNG.

Mr Zhou of Suzhou Oxygen from China presented a paper on air separation economics and how plants are becoming more efficient. It was certainly noticeable that Chinese ASU manufacturers are pinpointing India as a good business sector to enter with the growing demand for oxygen in the steel and petrochemicals sector.

Mr Bijan Ganguly, an advisor to BOC, gave a very interesting speech on whether SME's in the industrial gases business will survive with the growth in the major international players in India, he concluded that there was room for both. Large enterprises will focus on large plants, multi-location facilities and liquid logistics. The major players will help steel companies entering India (e.g. POSCO of Korea) or indigenous companies to become the low cost producers they have to be for India to grow its steel status across the globe.

He further declared that the SME's in the gases business have to change and realise the potential in distributing acetylene, nitrous oxide, welding gases etc. The SME's remain important players in the Indian gases business and employment statistics showed the continuing growth of SMEs ion India.

Mr Keith Stewart, Herose (Germany) presented a very impressive paper on safety and what happens if people/companies do not spec out the right type of valves in cryogenic or high pressure activity. He pointed out that skimping on the cost of valves may result in damage and costs to a company running into millions of dollars. Care should be taken in using refurbished valves instead of new and gave several examples of the implication if the company gets it wrong.

Gerry Manoharan from IGAS Technology (UK) presented a paper on safety and productivity in cylinder filling. IGAS has been a leading player in new cylinder filling design, layout and safety in the UK and has recently set up a venture in India as well.

Finally, Mr Munjal Mehta, representing Chart Industries (US) presented an interesting paper on the liquid cylinder and how the liquid cylinder can be used to replace the need for handling many high pressure cylinders. This paper created a lot of debate within the audience as liquid cylinders cover an area of liquid storage that is used within factories and due to their size do not come under the usual storage regulations for bulk liquid storage of gases which has to be outside of the factory. Clearly the handling of liquid cylinders has been modified somewhat for the Indian market and Mr Mehta showed examples of how this is being achieved.

At the same time the conference was taking place, the usual exhibition of companies involved in equipment manufacturing and supporting the gases business took place. There were over 20 exhibitors, several of them being international or representatives of international companies. Herose was present, as was Cryoquip and the informative Mr Brian Smith.

Chart Industries and CryoStar were present in force and interestingly a few Chinese companies were present - including Kaifeng and also Suzhou Oxygen.

The conference finished with presentations to foreign speakers and an award for the technical paper of the whole conference which was awarded to Mr Mascomani.

The AGM took place with most of the main officers remaining in place for next year. No decision was made as to the venue of the 30th National Gases Seminar but gasworld will keep you posted on this.