With two rousing presentations concerning safety and effective, responsible leadership, in addition to the closing remarks of the President, the BCGA 2012 Conference drew to a rapturous close.

It had been a thorough and comprehensive day of progressive presentations and forward thinking keynote speeches.

The conference started in the robust way it meant to go on, with more than 140 delegates arriving at the Oulton Hall venue in Leeds to attend the event – almost equalling last year’s record attendance for the BCGA (British Compressed Gases Association).

President Mike Galvin (GCE) thanked all for attending and took a few moments to look back on the association’s developments in the past year, before setting the tone for the rest of the event – forward thinking.

He explained, “Welcome again everyone to the beautiful Oulton Hall, it’s a good day and it’s great to see so many people here. We’re at a record level again in terms of attendance and it’s great to see during what is still a difficult [economic] time.”

“The BCGA has managed to come through this difficult time very well, with another sound financial year behind us and some notable new members.”

Gasworld understands that those notable new additions include Wincanton and Bristol-based refrigerants supplier A-Gas, with its membership now totalling 72.

Galvin proceeded to reflect on the departures of renowned BCGA stalwarts such as John Carver, Wayne Pepper and of course, former technical secretary Steve Elliott. Former president Matthias Kuhn’s imminent departure to mainland Europe was also cited.

But this was a time to look forward and Galvin spoke of the association’s objectives going forward. “Last year we underwent a strategy review, including an independent membership survey,” he revealed.

Of 150 surveys, a 39% response rate was received and five key principles were established in terms of what is felt should be important to the BCGA:

1.       Quality of information provided

2.       Expertise of the BCGA

3.       Technical Support [of BCGA]

4.       Helpfulness and availability of the BCGA

5.       BCGA to be recognised as a source of quality companies/members

“Going forward,” Galvin projected, “we will do some tweaking to the surveys rather than wholesale change and we have a platform to move forward. We’ve set the objectives of the BCGA going forward, based on this quality feedback.”

Debut

That forward thinking was reinforced with the introduction of Jake Lake with the day’s first presentation, Lake taking to the stage six months into the role of Technical Manager after the retirement of the aforementioned Steve Elliott.

“I would just like to say how pleased I am to get involved in the gases industry. I have always admired the BCGA’s work and commitment to safe practice”

In his new role Lake went on to describe the considerable progress made in the association’s publications and technical sub-committees, as well as the launch of new documents like GN 19, concerning cryogenic sample storage systems (Biostores) and their design and operation. Lake also reflected on the dangerous abuse and misuse of gases – an ongoing issue for the BCGA.

But Lake also reserved time for a few words of commandment for his predecessor. “I would just like to say how pleased I am to get involved in the gases industry. I have always admired the BCGA’s work and commitment to safe practice,” he said.

“I would also like to thank my predecessor Steve Elliott, whose efforts and knowledge were always second to none.”

A number of informative and insightful presentations followed that morning, covering welding fumes and respiratory safety, ongoing health and safety (HASAG) developments and responsibilities, carbon schemes that affect the UK gases industry, diving gases, and the UK LPG scene.

It was also interesting to note that Air Liquide UK Managing Director Sylvie Villepontoux (soon to assume the role of BCGA President, following the association’s AGM next month) presided over Session Two this morning, while the BCGA expressed its thanks to gasworld for so strongly supporting the work of the association – and safety as a whole.

Passion

Post-lunch presentations included an impassioned exploration of cryogenics and their fast-growing applications from Thames Cryogenics’ David Cooke, the Quest for the Holy Grail of refrigerants from A-Gas’ John Ormerod, and arguably the most passionate keynote speech of the day from BOC’s Mike Huggon.

Explaining his vision of the future of the gases business, Huggon was effusive about his love for both the industry and Britain itself – and challenged some of the common concepts currently observed in the UK.

“I joined the industry in 1978. It is a unique industry, it touches more applications or walks of life than any other industry I can imagine. I’m passionate about the industry, and I’m passionate about Britain,” he engaged.

“I joined the industry in 1978. It is a unique industry, it touches more applications or walks of life than any other industry I can imagine. I’m passionate about the industry, and I’m passionate about Britain”

“We have chosen to de-industrialise in the UK. We didn’t see a manufacturing industry as being important. We saw a financial services-based future – and now we’re paying the penalty. Manufacturing will give us a robust future – and we need to get behind it.”

“Do we just accept that we’re in a declining [UK] manufacturing industry?” he challenged, “or do we look to create value, to add value? Let’s race to the top of the industry rather than battling at the bottom of the industry.”

“There is growth there; we need to work hard to find it, and we need to work hard to sustain it. We need to provide the innovative solutions. It’s difficult to persuade people outside of the UK to invest in R&D inside the UK. We have to do that ourselves, we have to get behind R&D.”

An argument Huggon was keen to provide was cost versus value. He again challenged, “Part of the challenge we have [in the UK] is that we need to work up the cycle, we need to get away from talking about the costs of a product and start talking about the value of that product.”

Safety and inspiration

The afternoon continued to unfold in the same bold, encouraging manner – and a spirit of inspiration was certainly in the air.

But all good things come to an end and this inspiring day had to reach its conclusion too, and so Galvin took to the stage once more to close the conference.

He reflected, “A massive thank you to all of the speakers today, they were very topical and very entertaining and this is as good as any conference I’ve ever been to.”

“Mike Huggon gave a fantastic motivational speech about the industry and the future, but he also came back to our key goal here: safety. We don’t want anyone to get hurt.”

He closed the conference and summed up the mood of the day as he said, “On the 18th April 2013, we’re back here in Leeds and I look forward to seeing you there. Another date to put in your diary is 10th May (2012) – when the lovely Sylvie Villepontoux will succeed me as president. Thank you everyone.”