With an informed and high-profile presentation from the Right Honourable Michael Portillo rounding-off proceedings, the BCGA Annual Conference 2013 has drawn to a close.

Seen as something of a coup for the BCGA, Portillo discussed The Economic Horizon and examined the risks to the British economy and the Eurozone, looking at the impact of recent crises on capitalism and democracy - as well as sharing a few humourous tales from his esteemed career in politics.

The BCGA Annual Conference 2013 has been a day perhaps best summed up by success, safety and both an energy and enthusiasm.

The day began with a rousing opening speech from new BGCA President Sylvie Villepontoux, Managing Director of Air Liquide UK, before the latest updates were given from the association’s varied technical committees.

“What I have felt today is the level of energy and enthusiasm in the room, and on the sidelines…and that’s a great sign”

Sylvie Villepontoux, BCGA President

An engaging programme of presentations then unfolded, with a wide range of topics addressed.

The UK Department for Transport’s Leon Brain discussed Dangerous Goods Security and, in particular, the new risk-based approach taken in assessing the compliance of the dangerous goods industry sector with the transport security requirements of ADR.

North Sea Gases were then thrown into the spotlight courtesy of Dominion Gas’ Russel Davies, providing a different perspective on the use of industrial gases in the oil and gas sector. He described the ‘humongous’ amounts of industrial gases used in oil and gas applications, demonstrating both a passion for the lucrative industry that he spent most of his career in and a respect, if not admiration, for the diverse deployment of gases in this area.

An especially hot topic for the gases industry was pulled sharply into focus, helium, courtesy of the Airship Association’s Peter Ward. As Chairman of the association, Ward reviewed the current helium sourcing situation and applications including MRI, balloon gas safety and airship developments. He opened, “Helium - that gas that is so abundant in the Universe and rare on Earth; and boy is that true at the moment.”

Doug Thornton of the BCGA

Source: BCGA

Doug Thornton of the BCGA

A similarly hot topic in recent years has been cylinders in fires, a particularly prominent project for the BCGA and the success of which has been a long time coming. A discussion of Cylinders in Fires was presented today by BCGA Chief Executive Doug Thornton, explaining the quest to better understand acetylene in fires and the major progress of the BCGA in this area.

‘Empirical evidence’ confirms the research into cylinders in fires, particularly acetylene cylinders, with 700 hours of disruption recorded in 2005 contrasting with just 18 hours in 2012.

Reflecting on the change in approach brought about by the collaborative project that the association has been so entrenched in for the last half-decade, Thornton said, “This is a major success story for the BCGA.”

Chief Inspector Robin Edwards, of the British Transport Police, took to the BCGA stage to talk challenges in metal theft and metal related crime in the UK, while SKM Enviros’ Julie Gartside had earlier given an overview on how new Climate Change Agreements have developed and what’s the latest in mandatory carbon reporting schemes – something that’s sure to be an increasingly significant subject for the gases industry in the future.

Another area that will likely be of relevance to the industry – and the wider energy sector – in the future is Liquid Air.

Toby Peters, co-founder of Highview Power Storage and the Dearman Engine Company, addressed an attentive BCGA audience to discuss Liquid Air as an energy vector and how these two companies are working to commercialise technologies to utilise liquid air/liquid nitrogen and solve some of the toughest energy challenges within a low-carbon economy.

Clearly enthusiastic about the opportunities ahead, he said, “What the challenges of a low-carbon economy are going to do, is change the way the grid operates and put a massive strain on it…Energy storage is the new option that people are looking at.”

“It’s been a long, hard journey, and a lot of hard work, but we seem to be getting to the point now where it’s near commercialisation.”

Sylvie Villepontoux

Source: Air Liquide

Sylvie Villepontoux is currently Managing Director of Air Liquide UK.

Portillo brought proceedings to an end and wrapped up another successful gathering for the BCGA, with Villepontoux officially closing the conference and alluding to the spirit with which it had unfolded, “I think, today, together we had the opportunity to discuss what is driving the industry now and in the future. We have also had the opportunity to share the challenges and how we can find the solutions to these challenges.”

“What I have felt today is the level of energy and enthusiasm in the room, and on the sidelines…and that’s a great sign.”

The association is clearly in healthy shape, with attendance in recent years at all-time highs; last year the conference attracted more than 140 delegates, equalling 2011’s record attendance, and this year’s event maintained this high standard with 135 delegates participating. Member numbers also maintain momentum, presently standing at 75, gasworld understands.



The British Compressed Gases Association (BCGA) Annual Conference is the organisation’s opportunity to showcase progress made on the issues facing the industry.

Members and non-Members alike have the opportunity to catch up on the work of the various Technical Committees (TCs) that meet throughout the year and network with their fellow industry contacts, as well as indulge in a review of general interest papers.

The BCGA Annual Conference 2014 will be held at the Marriott Worsley Park, Manchester on 10th April.