Safer working practices within the gas industry was the key theme throughout the day at Oulton Hall near Leeds in April, as members and delegates gathered for the BCGA’s 2008 Annual Conference.

Founded in 1901 as the British Acetylene Manufacturer’s Association, the now named British Compressed Gases Association (BCGA) is composed of around 70 companies from the industrial gases industry and those in the audience were given a technical committee report update as the morning presentations began.

Prior to this, the bright spring day of 10th April had started with an early morning mingle during Coffee and Registration and the President’s welcome to delegates that followed. Thanking all those present, BCGA President Richard Gearing (BOC) welcomed all in attendance and said, “I’m pleased to welcome you here today to the BCGA conference, it’s good to see so many of you here today.”
“Two or three years ago, we completed quite a bit of work around the BCGA and what it stood for. When I l looked at the programme today that we had laid out, I feel it reflects our efforts and demonstrates a healthy and vibrant association.”

Doug Thornton, Director and Secretary to BCGA, led the early thanks and enthused, “Also thanks to gasworld, who helped us promote the conference again, and my personal thanks to the conference committee, you’ll all appreciate that conferences like this don’t just happen and there’s a lot of work and challenges to overcome.”

With this year’s conference then well underway, a review and update of the latest BCGA publications and Technical Committee Reports ensued, providing an overview of activities over the last 12 months and looking at topics such as REACH, Composite Cylinders and Ageing Pressure Equipment.

It was noted that time is fast running out before pre-registration for REACH begins on 1st June and action is required soon, if not immediately, in order to be REACH compliant and in business. David Hopper, of Air Liquide UK Ltd and Chairman of TSC 5, outlined the timescale for action and commented, “Put bluntly, no action could put you out of business. Eventually, a REACH registration is a licence to use, manufacture or import that chemical - so if you do nothing and it applies to you, then frankly you’re in big trouble.”

In the presentations to follow the brief coffee break, the disruption caused by acetylene cylinder incidents was addressed by London Fire Brigade (LFB) Group Commander and present Head of LFB’s Hazardous Material and Environmental Protection (HMEP) Group, Gary Gunyon. Having been responsible for the fire safety department’s fire safety legislative enforcement and arson reduction for over nine years, Gunyon spoke of tackling such disruptive occurrences and mitigating this disturbance by acetylene cylinder incidents.

“One issue is to prevent these cylinder incidents from happening and the other issue is, if they do happen, how are we going to safely resolve these more and more readily and speedily without affecting the safety of anyone,” he said.

Gunyon explained that through the knock-on effects of these incidents alone, major disruption has been caused in London and since 2004 a database of every cylinder incident in the capital has been created, with the Group Commander himself investigating each and every occurrence to better profile and understand such incidents.
In terms of how prevention can be achieved, a strong publicity campaign and technical training were cited as effective methods for combating this problem, while the help of the gases industry was also recognised as Gunyon said, “We prepared a publicity campaign, started initially in the London boroughs. Now, it’s no good me saying the safe practices for acetylene cylinders, because I don’t know. But the people who do know is the BCGA, and you guys were really helpful in giving us this technical information.”

A similar safety and security theme had preceded the presentation of Group Commander Gunyon, as the National Counter Terrorism Security Office’s John Buckley addressed the emerging subject of Terrorism and Bottled Gas. Buckley underlined the potential threat posed to the gases industry and the need to raise greater awareness to this growing issue, including introducing control measures to tackle the problem over the next generation or 10 years.

Introducing the topic and its increasing relevance to the industry, Buckley began, “What I’m really here to do is say that there is a problem, if you weren’t already aware of it. We had a couple of attacks last year where bottled gas was used by terrorists, one in London and one at Glasgow airport. And it is a problem folks.”

He continued to explain, “It’s a problem in some ways because we’re the author of our own success, in that because we have been relatively successful in preventing terrorists from getting hold of other means of causing explosions, they’re having to look elsewhere - and one of the places that they’ve looked at is your industry.”

Describing the type of present day terrorism that we all face as a country and around the world, Buckley noted that we now face a brand of international terrorism geared towards mass casualties by any means possible. He highlighted the expectedly long-running nature of the issue and said, “It’s been well documented by the government that the expectation is that this type of terrorism will be with us for a generation and that’s really what we’re looking at.”

“We’re looking at putting in control measures that will deal with this risk for a generation, so it’s not something that we’re going to ask you to do some work about and it’s going to disappear in the morning. We’re certainly looking at the next 5, 10 or 20 years that this problem will exist.”

The assembly of approximately 200 delegates entered mid-afternoon refreshed following the lunch interval, packing the Oulton Hall once again and this time, to an awaiting drum ensemble. The pulsing performance of the drumming entertainment from DrumPulse made for a jovial and light humoured spell in the conference and after a cracking crescendo, this was swiftly followed by the presentation of Dr Chris Peters, Technology Group Manager for TWI Ltd (formerly The Welding Institute). Peters provided an insightful discourse of the trends and drivers in the field of materials joining technology, followed by the structural dissection and updates of activities and publications from the European Industrial Gases Association (EIGA) by the association’s very own Deputy General Secretary, Andy Webb.

Enviros Consulting’s Julie Gartside then took to the stage to begin her topic in earnest, explaining the effects of UK climate change policy on industry & business. Gartside highlighted the link between CO2 and temperature, the need to develop a carbon strategy, and the addressing of our carbon footprints. During a somewhat educational discussion it was noted that if you can’t measure your carbon footprint then you can’t manage it, and how developing climate change legislation could affect the gases industry - with Gartside urging companies to calculate their carbon footprint, think about reducing this footprint, and act soon.

“The last thing that I would seriously ask you to think about is, are you going to be affected by the carbon reduction commitment (CRC)? If you are, it might only be just over 15 months away, but this time next year anybody who’s affected by it will need to be thinking about measuring their footprint and be thinking about capital implications, because there are huge financial implications if you’re affected by the CRC,” Gartside concluded.

An entertaining, amusing and enlightening presentation from the renowned Steven Carver closed the day’s discussions in a highly jocular mood, with BCGA Director Doug Thornton thanking all those for taking part and President Gearing describing the event as a “fantastic day” as he rounded off a successful 2008 conference, also acknowledging and rewarding the efforts of outgoing Chairman Noor Ali of CryoService.