gasworld took-up the invitation to attend the gathering of the cryogenics industry in Prague recently, highlighting the need for investment and innovation in this field.

It may have been a mild spring week in April, but it was a decidedly cool convergence of industry insiders as the tenth Cryogenics IIR International Conference 2008 took place in Eastern Europe.

CryoPrague 2008, as it’s commonly referred to, brought together those in the field of cryogenics to discuss a whole plethora of topics ranging from the centenary of helium liquefaction to ‘green’ cryogenics, and the cryogenic storage and transport of industrial gases.

Raising the curtain on the first day of the conference, an official opening awaited delegates in the conference centre and was swiftly followed by the presentation of Didier Coulomb, Director of the International Institute of Refrigeration (IIR).

The UK’s Ralph Scurlock, Committee Chairman, began proceedings with a topical theme as he said, “2008 is also the year in which energy costs have risen to a level of prominence in our lives, not only on the domestic front but also in cryogenics. I’m told that the increase in the price of oil will continue for the next year and will be approaching $200 by the end of 2009. That is a five-fold increase in energy costs in three years.”

Delegates were also braced for the critical times ahead for the industry, as rising prices require a high degree of innovation to keep cryogenics at the forefront of most companies. Scurlock commented on the significance of the conference as he said, “Now we all know that cryogenics is energy intensive and is therefore very sensitive to rising costs in energy. The running costs are going to exceed the capital costs very rapidly, using last week’s figures of energy prices.”

“This level of money represents a growing problem that we all need to address, and we need to improve our current efficiencies by spending more money than we have done in the past. Because if we do not then cryogenics is going to become too expensive for many people to use. So can we please leave that point in our minds in the conference, which I now declare open.”

Coulomb then presented the centenary of the IIR as the lectures began in earnest, and noted how the institute has changed in recent years in-keeping with the evolving role of refrigeration in agriculture and food, and the importance of science, technology and cryogenics in the modern world. A number of challenges were also outlined, as Coulomb highlighted the significance of refrigeration to guaranteeing sufficient quantities and qualities of food in developing countries, and to the environment – encouraging the use of newer, environmentally-friendly refrigerants and gases.

Coulomb enthused, “In conclusion, the IIR is 100 years old. However, it is still young: refrigeration preserves health and quality of life! We still have a lot of work to do throughout this century, together, for a better health, for a better environment, in a way of sustainable development.”

A full programme of seminars unfolded thereafter, throughout the four day timetable, and continued with the presentation of Scurlock, discussing the Centenary of the First Liquefaction of Helium. Highlighting the importance of helium liquefaction, Scurlock described the first achievement of liquefying helium back in July 1908 as a ‘landmark achievement’ and spoke of this opening the door to the new, quantum mechanical world of the 20th century.

Other topics of particular note for the gases industry were also enjoyed, as subjects included the evolution of the standard helium liquefier and refrigerator range, optimising gas filling productivity, the operation of small and high pressure tanks for liquefied air gases, and an array of presentations regarding gas separation and liquefaction. A bumper bonanza of positive poster sessions offered a insight into varying aspects or degrees of helium and nitrogen temperature technology.

With such a diverse range of topics, technical presentations and insightful poster erformances, the tenth cryogenics conference, sponsored chiefly by The Linde Group, Air Products and Chart Ferox, was a relative success and afforded strong networking opportunities.