The workshop was attended by 172 participants from 29 countries. Although the majority were from Europe, there were also participants from Canada, Singapore, Japan, Malaysia and South Africa. The one-day workshop gave a broad view on issues connected with acetylene - from legislation to production, practical examination of the cylinders and waste treatment.

\\$quot;I am very satisfied. During the day we have focused on the most important acetylene issues. Not by giving all details, but by pointing out a lot of questions that are important for our mission, which is to achieve the highest level of safety and environmental care in the handling of industrial gases,\\$quot; said the chairman of the workshop Klaus Markhoff of Air Liquide.

The world production of acetylene is 122,000 tonnes (1998). Of that, 20 per cent is produced by the wet method with carbide; the rest is chemical production.

Although the use of acetylene in West Europe and North America is declining, it will continue to be an important gas, while in other parts of the world its use is growing.

The workshop was intense with 14 presentations followed by questions and discussions. A general conclusion was the importance of following all regulations and that even the smallest detail is significant when handling acetylene. Knowledge and competence is vital.

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170 years with acetylene
Andrew Webb of Air Products presented the history of acetylene. The gas was first discovered in 1836 by Sir Edmund Davy. Thereafter the discovery was forgotten until Marcellin Bertheloth re-discovered it in 1860 and named it acetylene. The early applications for acetylene were lighting but about 100 years ago the modern mass acetone filling system was invented. Since then the basic acetylene production process has remained the same.

\\$quot;The last innovations came during the 1980s, the rapid filling methods: Simpleo and Compleo,\\$quot; Webb continued.

Today\\$quot;s traditional applications, cutting and welding, were invented roughly 100 years ago. But over time odd applications have been discovered. In 1923 a mix of acetylene and oxygen was used as an anaesthetic for pain relief during operations. A few years later it was abandoned due to numerous explosions in surgeries.

David Hook of BOC described in detail some recent incidents and his conclusion was clear: all of them were preventable. Nothing new has been discovered from investigations. He, and others on the seminar, wanted all to be aware that the ongoing retirement of the old generation employees in the industrial gas companies may lead to a shortage in competent engineers when it comes to acetylene. He warned about changes made to plants, or processes, without full understanding of the consequences.

Ten years with asbestos free mass
The new \\$quot;environmental friendly\\$quot; asbestos-free cylinders have now been in use for ten years. Hervé Barthélémy, Air Liquide, compared them with the old ones.

\\$quot;One thing we found was that the asbestos free cylinders are much more sensitive to top clearance than the older ones,\\$quot; he said. \\$quot;The asbestos free substances are less tolerant than the former porous materials,\\$quot; he added.

Mrs Sophie Dubouin of Air Liquide, on the other hand talked about lime treatment. \\$quot;On average every cubic meter acetylene results in 30 litres of lime slurry. The general scope is to look upon the lime as a by-product and not a waste,\\$quot; she said. She went on to explain how the lime could be used for soil improvement or waste odour treatment.

Udo Kohl of Messer informed the workshop about production, purification and drying processes. He emphasized the importance of correct carbide quality and granulation, high generator temperature (> 70°C), efficient cooling and good water control.

Hervé Durand of Air Liquide described how to perform a Generic Risk Analysis (GRA) and set up a list of Elements Important for Safety (EIS).

Test of decomposition
Mrs Cordula Wilrich and Stephan Aris of BAM (the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing) continued the day by showing how BAM tested the acetylene cylinders by overfilling them (+5%), heating them (+35°) and starting an acetylene decomposition by melting a wire in the ignition tube. BAM is one of only a few institutes which can make these tests.

Razzack Syed of Praxair provided insight into acetylene compression and filling.

Stephen Bradley of Air Products showed how to manage waste acetylene cylinders. Landfill of these cylinders is now effectively forbidden, but the cylinders can be managed in a safe, environmentally acceptable manner with high recycling rates. Acetone can be recovered to a quality for reuse.

David Teasdale of BOC gave a brief overview of the European legislation that applied to chemicals as well as acetylene.

Keno Broeder of Linde Gas described the perfect decommissioning of an acetylene plant, which is unfortunately a job performed frequently in Europe recently.

Hans Nosko, also of Linde Gas, talked about the demands on customer supply.

Lars-HÃ¥kan Jonasson of Carbide Sweden spoke about calcium carbide production based on the processes of his plant in Sweden.

The EIGA office was happy to receive about 140 feedback forms with positive comments on this event.

Related articles:
EIGA - Fighting for international regulations [April 20th 2006]
EIGA Symposium 2006 [March 29th 2006]