Chinese cylinder manufacturers aim to improving quality and safety in cylinders as well as improving knowledge of international markets.

Over 150 delegates gathered for a symposium on the International Cylinder Business during the second day of IG China. Invited speakers from both within China and overseas presented papers on various aspects of the cylinder business.

Mr Du Jun, current President of CIGIA opened the conference by expressing the interest of the delegates to learn about other regional markets and what the Chinese manufacturers are doing to improve quality and safety standards.

Mr Huang Qianghua, Secretary General of the National Technical Committee on Gas Cylinders of Standardisation Administration of China, went through the current process in which authorities are reviewing the regulations and legal framework for equipment such as high pressure cylinders and liquid cylinders. In China there are also a mix of National Standards, Industrial Standards, Local and Enterprise Standards to be drafted and agreed upon.

Progress was being made, but there were a myriad of standards being presented and drafted and that it was taking time, delegates were informed.

Mr Herve Durand, Packaged Gas Technical Manager in China for Air Liquide, provided an interesting update on the progress of the ISO cylinder and explained what revisions were made in 2010 to the ISO standard cylinder. The ISO standard is looking at the minimum requirements for the Raw Materials used in cylinder manufacturing, Design, Fabrication, Inspection and testing.

The aim of these being a 'permanent move to higher safety'. At present the ISO standards for HP Cylinders were accepted by the United Nations, Europe, and North America with the aim of generating better acceptance in Asia and India.

One problem in China was highlighted – that ISO cylinders could effectively be sold and used in China if the Guo Bain (Chinese Safety Standard) markings were also stamped on the cylinder shoulder, resulting in little space for labelling the actual cylinder.

Mr Sun, Vice-Director General of CIGIA, presented an interesting perspective on the Chinese cylinder manufacturing industry. He stated that the cylinder business had grown from RMB 600bn in 2001 to a forecasted RMB 1000bn by 2016. He stated that there were in fact 160 manufacturers of cylinders in China in 2001, but this had fallen to 120 in 2010 (includes LPG cylinder manufacturers).

In terms of HP cylinders, we understand that there are 47 producers in 13 provinces across China, producing 18 million cylinders. Liquid cylinder production was estimated to be around 35,000 in 2010. The total value of the business was put at between RMB10-11bn.

Mr John Raquet, MD of Spiritus Consulting, made a brief presentation on the size of the cylinder market in Latin America and the Middle East. Globally he estimated that the HP Cylinder market was around 175 million that were related to the industrial gases business. In Latin America, he estimated the pool to be approx 16 million cylinders in use and in the Middle East, 7 million cylinders.

Raquet did express that there were difficulties in describing actual equipment markets because of the difference in definition that exists and what is and is not included. For example, he explained, LPG and lower pressure cylinders were excluded and only medical gas cylinders were included related to industrial gas companies and not independent homecare companies.

Mr John Campbell of consultants JR Campbell & Associates spoke about the US market and the differences in structure between the US and European markets and hence the use and demand for HP cylinders varied somewhat as the number of distributors in the US amount to 1200 and have a large pool of cylinders to supply this end of the market. He also expressed his enthusiasm for the future of the Chinese business when he compared the GDP of the US with that of China bit more importantly the growth for the future was certainly bright in China alone.

Mr Saket Tiku, General Secretary of AIIGMA, presented an overview of India to the delegates. He stated that India was somewhat unique in that there were many gas companies operating in India with over 700 merchant ASUs operating in the country – many owned by private companies. Growth in India is strong with the cylinder (packaged gases) market growing at near 15% per annum. He stated that there was a time in the past when Chinese cylinders were banned from India, but that this was no longer the case.

The afternoon was completed with a lively panel discussion on the future for business in China and in India.