gasworld reports on the continuing events at the African Conference 2008, as the afternoon unfolds with presentations from Maghreb Oxygene, Global Gases, Specialty Gas Report, and SADC.

Pursuing the first day theme of ‘The African Continent – The Market Opportunities’, the afternoon session resumed as delegates returned refreshed from the sponsored lunch interval and discussed further the dynamics in the African market.

Chaired by Roy Irani of Gas Package Solutions (GPS), The Gas Supply Challenge afternoon session followed neatly on from the Market Opportunities theme of the morning and explored a number of areas including special gases, helium, the Northern Africa market, and standards across Africa.

Providing the first presentation of the afternoon, Publisher and Founder of Specialty Gas Report, Henry Grieco, covered the subject of Special Gases – Logistical Challenges and Trends and underlined not only the applications of specialty gases but also how this field is affected by emerging gas markets such as Africa.

“What I want to talk about are the major markets for specialty gases, which are broken into two segments, process gases and instrument gases,” Grieco introduced.

Applications for process gases include as blanketing gases, laser gases and lamp gases among many others, while the five key market segments for specialty gases as pointed out at the conference by Grieco are, semiconductor, industrial, medical and biotech, environmental, and instrumentation and research.

Growth markets like Africa are, according to Grieco, changing and evolving the way specialty gases are supplied, as they impact upon the mode of supply and revive the Make vs Buy argument.

Something of a rare treat awaited the attentive audience as Laila Benali, Financial Director of Maghreb Oxygene, took to the stage to become one of the few female speakers at industrial gas conferences. This also 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.

“I’m very pleased to be here today to present to you the company I work for and would like to thank gasworld for giving this opportunity to me,” Benali remarked with a smile.

“We have the vision of becoming an active player in the development, innovation and growth of the Moroccan industry. We think that Air Liquide has around 50% of the market, we have around 40% and there is another company that holds 10%.”

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 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.”

Following a warm round of applaud for Benali, the global dynamics of helium were explored by Logie McKay, General Manager of Business Development for Global Gases, as he provided a global overview of the market.

Global Gases is a rapidly emerging company in the industrial gas community, involved in the areas of diving gases, welding gases, and services to oil and gas exploration companies around the world. The company had also recently fully commissioned its third helium transfill facility in Cape Town, South Africa and is well versed in the subject of helium and supply.

The supply dilemma, still such a topical issue in the industry, was touched upon during the presentation as McKay described the trends of supply in both the US and the rest of the world. McKay finished with the conclusion that while there is still a tight supply position, this is expected to improve towards the close of 2008 and the average annual growth rate is forecast to be around 2.4% for the next decade.

Sazi Zangqas of the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) and SADC, the Southern African Development Community, discussed operations across Africa and focused on the standards across South African industry in the final presentation of the day one agenda.

Zangqas explained the structure of SADC and commented on the overall role of the organisation, saying, “The sole purpose of us is to have eyes on the standards in South Africa.”

Zangqas commented, “We only have three aims at SADC – to promote regional cooperation, facilitate the exchange of information, and also to facilitate the adoption of regional standards. If there’s any conflict of standards that causes a problem because there is SADC harmonised standards.”

Following the close of the afternoon’s session and the inquisitive Q&A Panel debate, attendees mingled in and around the conference venue and made use of the ideal networking opportunities that were afforded, before assembling once again later in the evening for the Formal Cocktail Party and Gala Dinner, kindly sponsored by Global Gases.

The evening entertainment and food & drinks event looks set to provide a suitably spectacular finale to what has been regarded as an immensely successful opening day of this ground-breaking conference.