The wait is over and a sense of fervour fills the air, as the Chilean curtain is raised and the gasworld South & Central America Conference 2009 is officially launched.

The clock struck 9am just moments ago in Santiago, as enthused delegates took to their seats and a distinguished panel of speakers entered the stage, to share their views on the market opportunities facing the gases industry in the Latin American region.

John Raquet, Spiritus Consulting Managing Director and co-founder of gasworld, officially opened the event as Chairperson of day one’s morning session.

Providing the much anticipated introduction, Raquet said positively, “Ladies and gentleman - a very warm welcome to the first ever industrial gases conference to be held in Latin America, in this historic city of Santiago.”

“My name is John Raquet and I would personally like to thank you for travelling from all parts of the world, from South and Central America and even locally - especially at this economically-challenging time. I hope you enjoy the conference and the warm Chilean hospitality.”

Behind the scenes, and Conference Manager Sharon Sandercock is both relieved and excited to see the event finally get underway. Appearing to share Raquet’s delight at the grand opening, Sandercock told us, “It’s fantastic, to see the conference begin after all these months of preparation. I hope the delegates will enjoy the opportunity to network and deliberate about the gases business in this region.”

Challenges ahead
Titled The Challenges Facing the Gas Industry in a Region of Opportunity, the conference has been organised to offer an insight into the current business demands and opportunities facing the South and Central American regions, which have been experiencing rapid growth of late.

While this healthy growth has been witnessed in the region in recent years, there would also appear to be some challenging times ahead throughout 2009 as the effects of the global economic downturn take shape.

This demanding situation has just been emphasised by Raquet, as he explained, “When gasworld set out to hold this conference, we were still in buoyant times and we wanted to address the needs and issues facing a fast-growing region. However, dare I mention the word ‘credit crunch’?”

“The past 2-3 months has shocked the world and great uncertainty hangs over many industries, including our own. So, may I take the liberty of suggesting that we send a strong and optimistic message out from this conference - there is still opportunity and we will roll-up our sleeves and work our way out of recession.”

Encouraging still further, Raquet added, “How can this be achieved here in Latin America? Well let’s just look at oil and derivatives and see what potential lies there. Maps show that there is still a lot of work to be done to clean-up fuels in the region.”

A range of distinguished and experienced industry insiders will take to the stage to discuss some of the challenges ahead and much more, including Weldcoa’s Hector Villareal, The Linde Group’s Raghu Menon, Rick Kowey of Matheson Tri-Gas, and leading independent figures such as Chilean economist Michele Labbe.

Labbe will be taking centre stage in jut a few moments to provide the conference’s first presentation, stepping into the limelight after Chairperson, John Raquet.

Follow all the action online at the gasworld website, as we keep readers up-to-date with reports, reviews, updates, and an informative conference blog.