Up until 1999, the Japanese industrial gases business had six specific industrial gas organisations - one for each of oxygen, acetylene, carbon dioxide, specialty gas, helium and hydrogen - each managing the activities of their own member companies regarding technical and safety issues.

To meet the growing need for self-regulation of the industry and the globalization of the gases business, these associations were consolidated into a national association to represent the industrial gas industry in Japan.The six specific industrial gas organizations merged and established the Japan Industrial Gases Association or JIGA. The merge was completed in July 1999.

Since then, the association has developed its activities within Japan and - more importantly - on the international stage. The following provides some insight into the recent activities of JIGA.

Recent Developments
In 2005, under the directorship of Hiroshi Masuda, JIGA entered a period of change. Firstly, the actual legal structure of the organization changed on 1 April 2005, becoming a more profit oriented entity - a Limited Liability Intermediate Corporation. It thereby complied with the Intermediate Corporation Law of Japan, dated 1 April 2002.

JIGA's mission is the $quot;contribution to society and the development of Industrial Gas Industries$quot; and one of the action guidelines of JIGA is to $quot;participate and promote global standards and modify rules and regulations$quot;. JIGA currently consists of 340 member companies who are manufacturers or suppliers of industrial gases in Japan. Many of these are joint ventures between gas companies and end-users.

One of JIGA's goals for 2007 is to merge with the Japan Medical Gas Association (JMGA), which has more than 800 member companies. Approximately a third of these overlap the two organizations. According to Masuda, the merger will not be easy, but once complete it will make the management of the combined organization more effective, helping it to implement good safety, security and environmental standards.

There are four active councils which make up the Administration Council within JIGA: Business Management; Technical; Safety; and International. In addition, there are four sectional committees: Dissolved Acetylene; Specialty Gas; Hydrogen; and Carbon Dioxide. There are also nine regional offices within JIGA.

Among the four active councils, the International Council is the newest, established in November 2001.

There are three Working Groups within this council: the International Relations WG, which builds relationships with other associations around the world and is responsible for the English part of the JIGA website; the Re-regulation WG, which relates the regulations and best practices being practiced on the international stage to the Japanese system; and the International Harmonisation Council (IHC) WG.

International Harmonisation of Standards
JIGA was one of the first gas associations to join the IHC, in 1999. Since then, it has been very proactive within the committee. This article's side block on the IHC highlights some of the efforts being undertaken to harmonise standards across the world. JIGA's first main project within the IHC was entitled $quot;Reciprocating Compressors for Oxygen Service$quot; and was a shared initiative with EIGA. It was completed at the end of June 2006 as an IHC document. JIGA issued the document in Japanese in December.

There are many more harmonisation projects underway and more being developed. As an active member of the IHC, JIGA has been engaged in several projects, including $quot;Installation Guide for Liquid Oxygen Pumps$quot;, $quot;Safe Use of Brazed Aluminium Heat Exchangers$quot;, $quot;Safe Handling of Silane$quot;, $quot;Safe Handlingof Fluorine$quot;, $quot;Preparation of Oxidizing / Flammable Gas Mixtures$quot;, $quot;Code of Practice for Arsine$quot; and $quot;Code of Practice for Phosphine$quot; and more.

The $quot;Code of Practice for Phosphine$quot; and $quot;Code of Practice for Arsine$quot; are projects led by JIGA. AIGA is also actively involved in these two projects. The associations aim to have these IHC documents complete by the fourth quarter of 2008.

International Membership
JIGA is an Associate Member of IOMA and participates in all of its annual meetings. There are 10 voting members in IOMA that are also members of JIGA. More than 20 people from Japan participate in the Annual Meeting every year.

JIGA has, however, suffered somewhat in the past with the language barrier. All other associations participating in the IHC use English as the public language and all IHC documents are written in English. JIGA has to translate the IHC documents into Japanese and any project activity lead by JIGA is usually in Japanes. However, Masuda has set about changing this and believes that in the future the language barrier will not be an issue and that JIGA will be an active and truly international member of the industrial gas community.

International Harmonisation Committee
The IHC was set up under the International Oxygen Manufacturers Association (IOMA) in 1999 and is working towards harmonisation of technical and safety standards worldwide for both industrial and medical gases. Currently the IHC consists of four member industrial gas associations, these are the Compressed Gas Association (CGA) of the US, the European Industrial Gases Association (EIGA), the Asia Industrial Gases Association (AIGA) and JIGA. JIGA is a single country association but other member associations are multi-national associations. The IHC meets twice a year around the world.

More than 30 documents have already been prepared, harmonising standards in various aspects of the global gases business. JIGA's IHC group has issued harmonised documents in Japanese, including:

•Oxygen Pipeline Systems
•Nitrogen Trifluoride Code of Practice
•Unmanned or Remote Air Gas Plants
•Hydrogen Transportation Pipelines
•Reciprocating Compressors for Oxygen Service.

The Global Committee (GC) of IOMA reviews the projects nominated by the IHC for the worldwide harmonisation of standards. Once a nomination is accepted as an IHC project by the GC, a lead association is appointed to manage the project to completion.

The next Annual Meeting of IOMA will be held in Barcelona, Spain on October 13-17, 2007.