The curtain has fallen on another successful gasworld conference, exploring the potentially prosperous African gases market and the issues to be addressed across the continent.

The welcoming and attractive setting of the Misty Hills Country Hotel complex complemented the inviting theme of ‘Meeting the Challenges of Supply’ and contributed to what proved to be a successful, groundbreaking conference.

The conference had been organised to highlight the drivers for growth and the challenges ahead for the African industrial gas market. This motivation appeared justified by not one, but a number of distinguished figures within the industrial gas community.

Not only had 125 delegates from around the world gathered under one roof to address these issues, but such luminaries as the Southern Africa Compressed Gases Association’s (SACGA) Albert Spencer and Cryoshield’s John Winterton also gave ringing endorsements of the significance of the event.

During his opening speech on the first day of the conference, Spencer commented, “You will be aware, hopefully, that this is the first conference of its type in Africa and we are very proud to welcome you. We thank most sincerely all the exhibitors who have set-up promotional spaces and gone to so much trouble. A lot of you have come from a long, long way away and we appreciate that.”

“I believe it’s very apt in the fact that things have been going tremendously well and there’s been shortages because of that with gases. Things have grown so rapidly over the last two or three years that we can’t keep up with that growth, and the infrastructure itself is playing catch-up - the challenge for Africa itself is very viable.”

Furthermore, Cryoshield’s Winterton closed his presentation on day two with his perspectives of what’s needed across the African continent in future years.

Citing the development of knowledge, skill-sets and personnel training as fundamental factors, Winterton said, “Education, training – it’s the only way out. That’s what we need to do in South Africa. We need to educate our population.”

This appeared to be something of a recurring theme throughout the conference, beginning with the views of guest speaker Kuseni Dlamini, Executive Chairman of the Richards Bay Coal Terminal.

Providing the first speech of what seemed an assertive agenda, Dlamini described the lack of skills across Africa as one of the key issues to be resolved and said, “I believe Africa needs to build up the knowledge and expertise in particular areas and industries. Without those things and without the physical infrastructure you cannot get things right. Knowledge intensity is very, very important and I think there is more that is needed to do.”

“I think it is important for Africa – we are lacking in resources but resources are not enough. If you look around the world, countries with the most abundant resources tend to be the poorest – there are many more dimensions and subjects that need to be looked at.”

Continuing the discussion and debate, Shuaib Fareed, Business Manager for Afrox in South Africa, presented ‘Meeting the Challenge, a Southern African View’ and explained the operations of Afrox across South Africa and how the company strives to support the market, the economy and challenges that are often encountered.

Prominent presentations
Perhaps one of the most notable and well-received presentations from the two-day event was that of the Spiritus Group’s John Raquet, elucidating the African industrial gases market and opportunities to be explored. Many delegates found this to be an extremely informative and insightful analysis of the African market and appreciated the forthright views of the independent consultancy.

According to Raquet, “The African market as we see it is valued at $1.3bn in 2007. Traditionally in Africa most plants have been captive. What are the drivers for growth in the African market?”

“Well clearly the metals demand. The growing infrastructural needs in the region, high oil prices, CTL (coal-to-liquids) and GTL (gas-to-liquids), there’s Nigeria – people are talking about operations in North Africa.”

“How about the merchant market? There are regional variances across Africa, not surprisingly. There is a real mix between basic industrial gas applications to sophisticated calibration gases. Some of those gas mixtures are highly valuable gases,” Raquet said.

He continued to highlight the abundant drivers for growth and noted, “Right across the continent you could say that many countries are still underdeveloped in terms of the gases market. That provides an opportunity for all of us to help develop these.”

“Our view is that the African market is going to be the highest growth market in the next few years.”

Another prominent presentation was enjoyed on the morning of day two, as Weldcoa’s Hector Villarreal took to the stage to discuss cylinder filling optimisation.

After an introduction from session chairman Barry Little of Air Products, an ever-popular speaker took to the stage for the resumption day two as Gas Package Solutions’ Dr Roy Irani began. Weldcoa’s Villarreal followed and more than captured the audience’s attention with his engaging style of speech and lively presence on stage.

The presentation covered the palletisation of cylinders and noted the many advantages and efficiencies of this method, the operations and processes that Weldcoa proudly offers, the technique of linear fill traversing, and the company’s development of its own proprietary electro-mechanical valve – an exclusive innovation.

Throughout the agenda a number of interesting and intriguing presentations were observed including Publisher and Founder of Specialty Gas Report, Henry Grieco, covering the subject of Special Gases – Logistical Challenges and Trends, Maghreb Oxygene’s Laila Benali discussing the North African market, and Afrox’s Innocentia Mbatha talking about medical gases and standards.

Specialty Gas Report’s Grieco underlined not only the applications of specialty gases but also how this field is affected by emerging gas markets such as Africa. Growth markets like Africa are apparently changing and evolving the way specialty gases are supplied, as they impact upon the mode of supply and revive the Make vs Buy argument.

Laila Benali, Financial Director of Maghreb Oxygene, took to the stage on day one to become one of the few female speakers at industrial gas conferences, and afforded a view of the industrial gas business in the North African market, after a great deal had been made of the South African industry earlier in the day.

Maghreb Oxygene is possibly the leading independent industrial gas company in the North African market and Benali offered an analysis of the Northern Africa market from Maghreb’s perspective.

Benali explained the company’s anticipations for future growth in the Moroccan market and said, “The growth of the market I think will be driven with new health regulations and new infrastructure projects. The new regulation, I imagine, will implement some new rules so we will have to be one of the only suppliers and we feel that it is a growing market – especially in the rural area of Morocco that is investing in new health centres.”

“Morocco is investing in a new airport terminal, new buildings and it is time to really grow in this area. Also as Mr Raquet announced this morning, the on-site business is really growing in North Africa.”

Taking the limelight after the entertaining and engaging presentation of Weldcoa’s Villarreal would always be a hard act to follow on day two, but Afrox’s Mbatha immediately caught the delegate’s attention.

As Quality & Regulatory Affairs Manager for African Oxygen Limited (Afrox), Mbatha exudes great expertise in the area of pharmaceutical standards and medicine control and explained, “Okay so what is different about medical gases – medical gases are different because they are given to people who are totally dependent on them, people who need medication and people who are in hospital. So if we get it wrong here there is a potential that someone could die. It is generally considered a medicinal product.”

Fond farewell
A native African ambience was enjoyed as a final farewell to the conference event, attending delegates opting to sample the snazzy Cultural Evening at nearby Lesedi.

A short coach ride took the excited guests to a night of entertainment, fine food, drinks and an authentically African experience, all kindly sponsored by Dominion Gas.

Following a colourful and energetic welcome dance awaiting delegates at the entrance, the experience moved on to a theatre show and interactive drumming, as leading industry figures took part in a rhythmic bop and bang of the bongo drums under demonstration from the village-dwellers before them.

An exotic feast of a buffet was served up for the buoyant visitors – enjoying a harmonious night of many diverse countries and cultures brought together under one roof for the evening.

Having tasted the typically African cuisine, shopped in the bountiful gift and crafts market and indulged in the laid-back locality, it was a brief ride back to the Misty Hills complex and the end of both a cultural and thought provoking conference.

The close indeed, of a conference which tackled so many issues, highlighted numerous challenges to be taken up, and attracted a comprehensive collection of industry insiders.

It may have been a chilly temperature due to the African winter season, but the climate for discussion and debate certainly heated things up and radiated warmth among united delegates.

The idyllic gasworld conference provided a forum for debate and can be considered a resounding success. Next on the agenda however, is the task of the industrial gas community to tackle the continent’s challenges ahead. Perhaps only then, can we all give ourselves a thoroughly good pat on the back.

Global Gases committed to Africa
Proudly speaking at the Gala dinner hosted by gasworld at the conference, Global Gases insisted it is committed to the African industrial gases market, highlighted by both its strong presence at the event and the company’s recent commissioning of its third helium transfill facility, located in Cape Town, South Africa.

As sponsors of the evening, Global Gases took the opportunity to make a short speech during the evening and recently appointed Business Development Manager, Logie McKay, addressed the audience with a rousing, humorous few moments behind the microphone.

Commending gasworld for a resoundingly successful and popular conference event so far, McKay also found time to underline the dedication on Global Gases to the African industrial gas market and said, “Global Gases is totally committed to Africa and the recent start-up of our helium facility in Cape Town is a further sign of that.”

In April, the company confirmed it had fully commissioned its third helium transfill facility in Cape Town, South Africa – adding to sister sites in Dubai and Singapore.

Managing Director and CEO Deepak Mehta, also in attendance at the gasworld conference from 10th – 11th June, said at the time of the announcement, “This is our third helium transfill after Dubai and Singapore and the group is very well positioned to supply wider geographies in Middle East, South East Asia and West Africa Diving contractors.”

Dominion Gas at African adventure
Event sponsors Dominion Gas enjoyed a notably strong presence at the conference and offered its much needed perspective of the offshore business aspect of the industry.

Sponsoring a promotional space, the Cultural Evening at Lesedi, and speaking on day one of the event, the company was keen to underline its commitment to the global industrial gas market and the services it provides.

Dominion’s Christopher Peck returned to the conference speaking arena and delivered both an informative and insightful presentation, about the offshore oil and gas needs in Africa.

Briefly discussing the current market dynamics of the industrial gases industry Peck explained, “I think we all go to conference like this to go home a little wiser than when we came. I want to talk to you about a very, very exciting business, the industrial gas business. I’ve always found it very exciting and stimulating.”

“I’ve been in this business a long time and I want to talk about the challenges that we all face in this industry. I think we’re all aware of the daily hike in oil prices, but what is this doing? It’s really stimulating the industry. There’s lots of exciting developments going on,” he added enthusiastically.

Promotional space success
Situated with a backdrop of mini cascading waterfalls, the spacious Pelindaba terrace provided a perfect place for promotional booths – all of which attracted a great deal of attention and were gratefully received.

Sponsors lined up along the terrace included Cryorentals, Inox India, Afrox, Herose, Union Engineering, Red Mountain, and Cryostar among many others.

The booths offered the ideal opportunity to promote each company and network during intervals and other opportune moments, with all sponsors more than happy with the interest received throughout.

With plenty of refreshments on offer and the picturesque surroundings, the sponsorship location provided an ideal setting for networking and interaction between sponsors and fellow delegates.