The main theme for this year's EIGA Winter Technical Meeting was 'Developments in Hydrogen Safety'. The meeting took place in Brussels on 25 January 2007, with 180 participants, all aware that the demand for hydrogen is increasing all over the world and new players are entering the market.

This year's EIGA's winter ensemble kicked off on the evening of the 24th at the Metropole Hotel, a venue of great historic standing, having hosted the inaugural Solway Club almost 100 years earlier. Under the same roof as where Einstein, Plank, The Curies, Rutherford etc. once discussed the principles of 20th Century Physics, leading gas industry personnel of the 21st century shared their ideas and the challenges ahead at a reception and dinner. The highlight of the evening was the first official speech of new EIGA President - Mr Bernard Guerini, President of Air Products Europe.

Guerini welcomed the heads of the 19 national industrial gas associations present and pointed out the importance of the daily contribution of the 60 current EIGA Working Group members for the benefit of all member companies and their subsidiaries around the globe.

$quot;The strong attendance of EIGA members from European National Associations and from JIGA, ANZIGA, AIGA and CGA clearly demonstrate the international power of our industry,$quot; he said.

Another highlight of this evening was the award ceremony for EIGA´s most successful Working Group in 2006, the Ad Hoc group 'Reciprocating Oxygen Compressors'. It was presented by Herman Follens, chairman of the Industrial Gases Council.

$quot;The excellent cooperation between JIGA and EIGA with representatives from US companies and equipment manufacturers in a joint working group set a new landmark in international cooperation for developing an important safety document,$quot; he said.

The speeches of thanks given by the group's chairman Alain Colson and Hank Masuda-san demonstrated the group's spirit. (Pictures)
The participants from all European EIGA member companies met the next morning for an administrative 'Ordinary Meeting'. This was followed by presentations from selected EIGA Working Groups about their projects and achievements during 2006. AN important presentation was given on the imminent REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of CHemicals) legislation, which is being formulated by the European Chemical Agency based in Helsinki. This legislation will have a significant impact on the resources within all EIGA members, due to the need for reclassification and relabelling of hundreds of substances and mixtures in their portfolios. Also under review are the Fluorinated Gases Regulations and the Waste Directive where items such as non-refillable cylinders and scrapped material from limited life composite cylinders, need to be addressed. The Food Gases area is in the process of establishing maximum oil limits in food gases which can be acceptable.

EIGA has a strong focus on safety. During the afternoon session on hydrogen several speakers gave their views the subject.

Mr Angel Arrieta of Praxair (the SAG chairman) emphasised the importance of reporting all relevant incidents into the secure EIGA accident database. These data are analysed by SAG and used to avoid similar incidents in the future. Fire and explosions are currently the main types of hydrogen accident. Mr Arrieta presented some examples of different types of accident and described how they could be avoided.
Mr Roy Irani of The Linde Group discussed hydrogen embrittlement in steel cylinders. He concluded that although we learnt a lot in the 1980s, there are new companies, for example in Asia, on the market. Many of them have not yet learnt the lessons about design and materials that European companies experienced some 20 years ago.

Mr Hervé Barthélémy of Air Liquide talked about new testing methods at cylinder manufacturing taking into consideration new materials for lighter cylinders.

Mr Geoffrey Achilles of Air Products highlighted the major hazards assessments of production in hydrogen plants.

The hydrogen landscape is shifting
How can we get a safe journey towards a hydrogen-fuelled future? The answer was given by Mr Gary Lomas of The Linde Group. He gave a presentation entitled 'The changing face of hydrogen supply', explaining what the shifting landscape could mean for industrial gas companies. He observed that while today it is mostly professionals using hydrogen, many of the new uses of hydrogen are directed at the general public. This will increase the demand for safety training and will require new modes of hydrogen supply chains and easy-to-use packaging. New players, with their own views on risk behaviours, will also enter the market.

Hydrogen in the pipeline for natural gas?
Mr. Dave Pinchbeck of The European Gas Research Group, GERG gave information about his organization, which specialises in natural gas. Mr Onno Florisson of Gasunie, presented the EU view on hydrogen, focusing on the very interesting project Naturalhy (www.naturalhy.net).

This project is investigating the possibility of using the existing natural gas system as a catalyst for preparing the hydrogen economy. Hydrogen will be mixed with natural gas in the existing pipeline system for transport and then separated by means of a membrane at the point of use. This should make it possible to use the present 120,000km network of pipelines in Europe rather than constructing another, leading to a faster start-up for the introduction of hydrogen for new uses. The project, which has 39 European partners, started in 2004 and is due to be completed in 2009. Special emphasis is given to safety issues and the specific requirements due to hydrogen's chemical properties.

Over 70 safety awards
During the 'Ordinary Meeting' the EIGA member companies with the best performance in their safety work were awarded in three separate groups.
•The Company Awards in 4 different categories
•The Road Safety Awards also in 4 categories
•The Non-Accident Awards per location
For the last group alone over 70 awards were handed out to nine gas companies. One major global player received 20 awards.

The President, Bernard Guerini, presented all these awards and stressed the importance of safety performance for all EIGA companies.
Information was also given about the forthcoming EIGA Summer Session 2007 which will be held in Istanbul in Turkey at the end of May and for next year's 2-day Symposium on the 30th and 31st January 2008 in Düsseldorf about 'Transport Safety'.

gasworld would like to thank Frank Finger, General Secretary of EIGA and to Roy Irani for their contributions to this article.