Good practices, innovative initiatives and future challenges/opportunities have been the focus here at day two of the European Industrial Gases Association’s (EIGA) Winter Seminar in Brussels, Belgium.

More than 200 delegates from 30 countries have gathered at the Le Plaza Hotel over the last two days to explore why even in one of the safest industries, accidents still happen and the lessons that can be learned from them.

Under the theme of Lessons Learned in Production and Filling Plants, day one focused on some significant accidents that happened in the industry and the lessons learned from these accidents.

EIGA 2020: Day one recap

As EIGA President Ivo Bols summarised yesterday in opening the event, “Safety is not an intellectual exercise to keep us in work. It is a matter of life and death. It is the sum of our contributions to safety management that determines whether the people we work with live or die. That’s a quote from Sir Brian Appleton,” Bols said.

“Why are we hosting this seminar? To address lessons learned from significant industry incidents and share this information; to provide insight to safeguards from today’s design and operation; to address technical, organisational and human factors; and to look to the future and help maintain the corporate and industry memories.”

Good practices

Today’s speaking agenda began with a talk from Luc Van Landeghem, Construction Safety Manager for Nippon Gases Europe, on the subject of A Working Strategy to Make Construction Sites Safer.

Van Landeghem discussed improving safety at construction sites, promoting a safety culture in everyday construction activities – working towards the 0 incidents/0 accidents goal – and the lessons learned from construction at sites.

“At Nippon Gases construction sites in the region we have had no recordable incidents during the last five years,” he told delegates. “So what is our approach?”

“I do not have a single magical recipe for you. We ensure we have a well defined contractor selection process and clear contractor safety rules.”

“Every worker who wants to work for us has a safety introduction, with a special focus on historic incidents at Nippon Gases sites, in his/her line of work.”

“We have a specific construction ‘Permit to Work’ system, with emphasis on hazards coming from both the job itself and the working environment.”

“We also hold extensive construction safety training for all Nippon Gases personnel active at sites, continuous monitoring by trained safety watchers, safety observation systems, frequent safety meetings and a highly visible focus of Nippon Gases management for construction safety.”

“We are on the right track, but we have no time to relax. Even though we have no incidents, we still see near misses which indicates we have work to do.”

Next to the stage, Dr. Nikos Larass, Process Safety Manager in the Global SHEQ Department at Linde, gave a summary of the Root Cause Analysis Training Course EIGA held on Tuesday (28th January).

Larass explained how Linde analyse incidents: “Evaluate the event and collect facts, identify the root causes and take actions.”

He gave the following advice:

  • Avoid repetition of same/similar incidents
  • Meet legal/regulatory requirements
  • Identify corrective and preventative actions
  • Identify poor processes/weaknesses
  • Understand costs of incidents
  • (Re)evaluate risks
  • Demonstrate concern (visible leadership)


Source: EIGA

Managing Safety Concerns Through A Computerised Maintenance System was presented next by Jesus Gallego, Bulk Operations Director Europe for Nippon Gases Europe.

At Nippon Gases, the company manages its 50+ facilities maintenance activities through a computer system.

“The mature system is widely used by plant personnel; we manage preventative, predictive and corrective activities; record assets history and process safety policy activities,” Gallego said.

“Through this system, we manage operational alerts, original equipment manufacturer (OEM) recalls, root cause analysis action plans and lessons learned, mechanical integrity and process safety programmes.”

Gallego said benefits of the system include:

  • Nippon Gases corporate system
  • All integrated in a common platform
  • Visibility at all levels
  • Integrated in everyday field team activities
  • Track compliance
  • Real time reporting and dashboards

Session one’s last speaker, Klaus Tech, Head of Safety and Health Protection in Linde Gas Region Europe Central, then turned the attention to hydrogen explosions and safe systems of work.

In 2015, Tech said a hydrogen explosion occurred inside a compressor building resulting in heavy damage to the building a collapsed roof.

“Luckily no one was injured, but one employee received medical care because he suffered shock,” he explained.

“So, what happened? An internal leak was identified in the suction valve of the second stage of a hydrogen compressor, built in 1999.”

“The machine was stopped for maintenance and a spare valve was installed. The compressor was purged according to a purge procedure and restarted.”

“30 minutes later a similar problem occurred, and a shutdown of the compressor was required again – the third time in two days.”

“The machine was prepared for maintenance again, the suction valve changed again, and the operator was instructed to again purge the compressor with nitrogen.”

“Then a dramatic hydrogen explosion occurred inside the compressor building. A wall was pushed out and the roof collapsed.”

Tech detailed the sequence of actions that led to the incident:

1. Operator was purging machine with nitrogen. Operator should pressurise and depressurise the system five times.

2. At the end of the second purging, cycle 30 bar hydrogen was introduced into the system by the operator. (For the operator, this was the third maintenance case with five full purging cycles during the last two days).

3. This could have happened by opening the wrong valve of the double block and bleed system at the compressor suction side.

4. The connection of the nitrogen hose failed and hydrogen was released into the room. About 15 seconds later an explosion occurred.

Concluding, Tech said, “Serious incidents are caused by multiple factors, are not caused solely by individual failing and always show systematic weaknesses.”

“The known tools ‘permit to work’ and ‘lockout/tagout’ are indispensable and the best basis for a high level in process safety.”

Initiatives to go further

Sophie Wastiaux, Senior Expert in Asset Integrity Management in the Large Industry Worldwide Industrial Management Department at Air Liquide, kicked off session six with a presentation about a major pipeline incident inside an Air Liquide plant in France and the lessons learned from it.

On 13th June 2010, there was a full bore rupture of an oxygen transmission pipeline in Richemont, East of France.

Wastiaux said there were no precursory signs like leakage and the consequences were limited to material damage.

“We identified the full bore rupture was caused by the presence of an extended thinning zone of the pipe due to external corrosion. This specific corrosion resulted from the conjunction of the following three factors:

  • The pipe was immersed under the groundwater table during a part of the year. Groundwater brings dissolved oxygen.
  • Coating was disbanded, thus cathodic protection was inefficient in this zone (shielding effect).
  • The groundwater was renewed by thermal convection in the disbanded area through coating faults, with draining of corrosion products. Thermal convection was due to temperature difference between soil and gas just after compressor discharge, at the outlet of Richemont ASU.”

Wastiaux explained the following lessons learned:

  • The full bore rupture of Richemont results from a very specific mechanism
    • External corrosion of pipelines is generally of a ‘cavernous’ type and is thus leading to leaks. Leaks end up being seen and thus managed.
    • In this case, the corrosion has led to an extended thinning of the tube wall. The pressure in the oxygen pipeline initiated the sudden and complete rupture of the wall. It was not resulting from evolution of a leak.
  • Pipeline Integrity Management (PIM) was set up after Richemont incident
    • PIM preventive actions put in place would certainly have identified the pipeline as a priority for excavations which would have shown heavy degradation of coating and developing corrosion.
    • Impact of Richemont reinvestigation on pipeline risk assessment mode and Air Liquide PIM.


Source: EIGA

Switching the focus from a highly technical presentation to one about human factors, Christine Bécard, part of Air Liquide’s Corporate Safety team, shared an initiative aimed to develop field managers’ safety leadership.

At the end of 2018, Air Liquide Europe Industries initiated a long-term programme to foster the safety leadership of its managers in operations.

“We want to prevent fatalities and serious accidents and a key success factor is the role of field managers in operations (production and logistics),” Bécard explained.

“The objective of this project is to enable them to perform their safety contribution at the highest level.”

Bécard then highlighted the lessons learned from the project:

  • Improving safety leadership in a sustainable way needs a holistic approach
    • If we ask our field managers for a high level of safety contribution, we shall also provide them with a supportive ecosystem.
    • Operations and safety are complex topics, we cannot succeed without collective intelligence.
  • Better insight of what ‘safety leadership’ means
    • Ability to communicate (inform, inspire, influence)
    • Ability to embrace paradox, make decisions, arbitrate.

Madalina Balalau, leading Air Liquide’s Industrial Management System for Industrial Merchant at worldwide level, then shared experience about a programme launched in Air Liquide to enhance industrial risk management for plant and logistic managers.

Rounding out session six, Manolis Koutsouerlakis, Linde’s Process Safety Manager for Region East Europe and Middle East, discussed augmented reality in Permit to Work (PTW).

He demonstrated how digitisation can improve safety and detailed how Linde has introduced augmented reality via smart glasses.

“We have to innovate, or we will die,” Koutsouerlakis began. “Today I will try to demonstrate how digitisation can improve safety and I’ll show you how we have been innovating at Linde.”

“Linde operates many unplanned plants which technicians visit for troubleshooting. They work without supervision and they often work at remote locations.”

“Under the old process, when an unplanned shutdown occurred, the technician would visit the site. A plant manager (PTW issuer) has to travel there as well to evaluate the risk and issue PTW.”

“This resulted in extra cost for operations – the plant managers travel costs and lost man hours and another thing the shutdown hours increase. Both of these are problems for us.”

“Now the solution, the smart glasses. These are easy to carry, connects to 4G, are ATEX compatible, have a record function, are voice controlled and hands free.”

“So now, the PTW no longer has to travel to the site, that’s the big difference, unless of course the task is too complex to evaluate.”

“The PTW issuer (the plant manager) connects to the smart glasses and the PTW receiver (technician) connects to the receiver’s glasses.”

“Together, they evaluate the risk via a recorded video chat, can share documents or draw on the screen and the task can be supervised if needed.”

After showing a video demonstrating the use of smart glasses, Koutsouerlakis listed the following conclusions:

  • Digitisation can improve safety and ease compliance to standards – no “technical” excuses for cutting corners
  • Smart glasses are useful for remote risk evaluation and supervision
  • Smart glasses will save money and enhance safety in daily operations.

EIGA’s Winter Seminar continues here this afternoon with four presentations centred around future challenges and opportunities.