When you’re way out in front as the market leader, where is there to go? The future of the North American industrial gases business is firmly in the spotlight as the gasworld’s first ever conference in the region is now underway in Miami, Florida.

Around 200 delegates have gathered at the Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay hotel to discuss and debate the market’s current and future dynamics at the gasworld North American Industrial Gas Conference 2012.

gasworld Director Martin Durham opened the conference, reflecting on both the motivations for the conference and current events in the region and its gas industry. He began, “Hello and welcome to gasworld’s North American Industrial Gas Conference 2012, we’re very excited to be here today and to host our very first event in the United States of America.”

“This is our tenth industrial gas conference to date, and we thought it was about time we put another pin in the conferences map, and ventured across the Atlantic to bring the North American gas community together in a way which has never been done before.”

“This is our tenth industrial gas conference to date, and we thought it was about time we put another pin in the map and ventured across the Atlantic to bring the North American gas community together in a way never been done before”

“We’re delighted to welcome up to 200 of you here today, especially against such a difficult backdrop of economic uncertainty. We understand this is a time of transition in the US and as we gather here today, the Fiscal Cliff is still very much making the headlines.”

“This is also a time of transition for the gases business in North America – the dynamics are changing, growth drivers are evolving, and over the next two days we’ll be exploring how this is going to change the face of the industry as we know it.”

The first keynote presentation of the event came courtesy of The Economist’s Robert Powell, Global Risk Manager at the Economist Intelligence Unit, who discussed the state of the world economy and the position of the US market.

Robert Powell, The Economist

While Powell is responsible for reports on the Middle East and North Africa, he also focuses on wider global issues and in particular, macroeconomic policy and the hydrocarbons sector.

Gracing the gasworld stage, he explained, “It’s a great pleasure and a privilege to be here today, to be a speaker at gasworld’s first even in North America. I’ll be speaking about such delights as the US Fiscal Cliff and the Eurozone crisis.”

“It’s not been the most enjoyable year for the world economy. The US economy has lost momentum, and China’s economy has slowed, and when you have this loss of global growth momentum, it’s concerning.”

“We’re not hugely optimistic about 2013, though we do think China’s growth will pick up again. The problem is, these financial crises take a long while to play out. We think the US housing market has bottomed and this will begin to pick up, banks have recapitalised and leveraging is underway – in effect, the consumer is dealing with debt. It’s very much going in the right direction.”

“So how about the US? Well it has been a tough few years so far. What’s quite interesting is that over time, recessions that take a little longer are a little flatter and a little less harsh. So what about this 2008 recession, are we back at full employment yet? Well at the moment, we’re nowhere near. The difficulty for the US is we’re running against fiscal headwinds.”

“We think the US economy will grow by about 2.1% in 2013. If it falls off the Fiscal Cliff, however, then it will shrink by about 0.5%. But if we manage to avoid that, we think the US is exceptionally well placed for future growth”

“We’ve got to get a little used to austerity. If we can’t reach a deal on the Fiscal Cliff then things are going to get a bit tricky. We think at the moment, that the US economy will grow by about 2.1% in 2013. If it falls off the Fiscal Cliff, however, then it will shrink by about 0.5% - and will be back in recession.”

“But if we manage to avoid that and get something together, we think the US is exceptionally well placed for future growth. Flat US wages have made the country more competitive, wages haven’t really changed in the US since the 1980s which is not great for the middle classes, but it is a great competitive strength for the US economy. The other factor that is making the US so competitive is the energy story, which you all know about very well.”

“There is tremendous opportunity going forward in petrochemicals, fertilisers, even steel and aluminium, and we think this is going to have a tremendous effect on the US economy.”

Big opportunity

Spiritus Group’s John Raquet is next to the stage, to discuss the changing dynamics in the region’s gases business and with a view to the future structure and growth projections.

Meanwhile, conference delegate Eugene Botsoe, President of Ability Engineering, told gasworld that the conference comes at an opportune time for the North America gases industry.

Speaking from the sidelines of the event, he explained, “We have never attended a gasworld conference before, and have never really attempted to market ourselves before and so we decided, let’s try and find out more about what’s going on.”

“In the last two to three years there’s been a lot of talk on helium, as well as liquefied natural gas (LNG), and there’s so much natural gas in the US from all the shale rock and the activities going on, that it provides an opportunity to expand in that area.”

“Those were two things where we thought, let’s find out what other people are thinking and doing. Combined with knowing that all of the big players in the gas world are going to be here, it’s a big opportunity - and that’s what brings me here.”

 

Follow all the latest news, views and updates from the North American Industrial Gas Conference 2012 online, at www.gasworld.com.