Taking the stage and following Stefan Messer at any event is always going to be a tough act to follow. But those presenting on the first day of EIGA 2013 tackled their topics with an abundance of vim and vigour as the Symposium got underway.

The association, which also celebrating it’s 90th anniversary this year, chose the subject of safety as a way of highlighting just how far our industry has progressed during this time frame.

Under the microscope of analysis and debate was C2H2 – otherwise known as acetylene. Air Product’s Ramon Castella presented his subject, titled Reducing, reusing and recycling – the 3 ‘R’s in acetylene production. He said, “The basic acetylene production process consists of adding water and calcium carbide into a generator. From this reaction we obtain acetylene gas and lime slurry.”

“In an acetylene plant we have several environmental impacts. Here we describe the acetylene process, its inputs, outputs and the different types of environmental impacts. To produce acetylene we need raw materials as water and carbide, electricity, consumables and cylinders and at the end we obtain… acetylene and lime.”

“During the production process we generate solid waste as drums, molecular sieve, generator residuals, catalyst from purification or driers, paints, cylinders to be scrapped, parts of asbestos from porous mass. Also we produce some liquid waste as oil, acids or waste water and we have some emissions to the air as well as noise.”

Castella explained that by adopting the principles set out at the beginning of his presentation, which was also the title, a lot of the by-products produced in the creation of acetylene could be reduced, reused or recycled.

“There are no emissions to groundwater or to soil,” he said, adding “there are minimal emissions to the air. Water is recovered from the process. Solid waste is managed with authorised waste management companies and different options are available to maximise reuse and recycling of cylinder scrap and manage controlled disposal.”

Next to the stage was David Birch, from BOC – which is owned by Linde, who spoke about the issues surrounding the construction of a new acetylene plant during the 21st century.

“Acetylene is a gaseous explosive,” stated Birch, who continued, “there have been 70 years of progress. From the Bristol plant, which was constructed in the 1930s, to our plans today to build a modern acetylene production plant at Immingham.”

“Environmental consideration is a major factor (in the planning processes today). Voles, hawks and bats all had their say on our application. We have had to be considerate to the animals in the area and migrating birds.”

“Following a fire at our Bristol plant in January 2010 there was plenty of disruption to the local area – namely because a 200m exclusion zone had to be implemented. In the Immingham design and placement such risks of disruption have been minimised along with risks to any facilities nearby.”

“A troubling aspect of our investigation into the Bristol fire was how vulnerable traditional acetylene cylinder filling is to human factors. People were expected to carry out a sequence of calculations on every cylinder to decide how much acetone needed to be added and then how much acetylene to arrive at a cylinder filled within the safe envelope.”

“Sometimes this was done at night and in cold conditions when measuring returned gas pressure can be difficult to do accurately. Also simple human error could allow cylinders to skip parts of the process because of a lack of an obvious production flow path.”

Learning from this incident has resulted in the design of a modern acetylene plant that should significantly reduce the risk of human error.

Birch concluded by saying, “Building a brand new acetylene facility to best industry practice has been a tough learning experience for all. But EIGA 123 has been a crucial ‘bible’ of knowledge for all parties: gas company, contractors and licensing authorities.”

“Of course it cannot help when what is lacking is experience, understanding and wisdom. The modern-day legal environment of liability avoidance has meant that many engineering decisions tend to be thrown back onto the gas company ‘customer’.”

Dr Warren Hepples, from the European Cylinder Makers Association, concluded the acetylene section by presenting his paper about high-pressure gas cylinders.

N2: Safety to seafood was the next topic for discussions that featured a rather memorable example provided by Air Liquide’s Damien Burban. In his presentation, titled ‘Practical recommendations to reduce the dangers of asphyxiation’, Burban proclaimed that the human body can survive three-weeks without food, three-days without drinking, and three-minutes without breathing. But it can only survive two breaths without oxygen. He then continued by stating ways to mitigate the risk of asphyxiation; including ensuring areas are well ventilated, the installation of detection systems, and provide portable detection systems, amongst other ideas.

The Messer Group’s Friedhelm Herzog was next to the stage to discuss ‘Cryogenic methods to reduce VOC emissions’.

“I want to talk about cryogenic methods to reduce the emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC),” said Herzog.

“And I want to explain that with these methods the recovery of solvents (which means saving of resources), and the reduction of emissions (which means protection of the environment) can be done in the same process.”

“I want to demonstrate the technical evolution of the processes, show up that today extremely high recovery rates are achievable, and I want to give an impression about the environmental relevance of this technology.”

He added, “What is ‘cryogenic condensation’? This is quite easy to explain: If you use a heat exchanger to cool down a VOC-loaded off gas stream with the coldness of liquid nitrogen the VOCs become liquid and then can be separated from the gas stream. By doing this the VOCs are recovered and the gas stream is purified.”

“Of course not every off gas stream can be purified in that way, but for small volume flows with high VOC-concentrations, for example from storage tanks or from reaction vessels in the chemical or pharmaceutical industry, or, (a quite different application) from refrigerator recycling plants, cryogenic condensation very often is a good solution from a technical and economical point of view.”

Herzog explained that the main purpose of cryogenic solvent recovery is the protection of the environment, so the “TA-Luft”, the technical manual for clean air preservation is the legislative driver for using the process.

He added that the cost saving, due to the recovered solvents, in most cases is only a side effect.

Roughly estimated figures for the European area were provided, which stated the global warming potential of recovered solvents is approximately 4mta of CO2, which is mainly from CFCs. As a comparison this is the equivalent to CO2 emissions of a typical 500MW power station.

Jean-Pierre Tranier closed the morning sessions with his discussion on Energy Efficiency Improvements in Air Separation Units.

Following a delectable lunch, the afternoon session picked up where the high standard of the morning’s speakers left off – with discussions about co2. Titled ‘A life cycle approach to sustainable product strategy’, Tata Steel’s Louis Brimacombe discussed the impact of the Kyoto agreement on the metals industry and how legislation will demand that emissions of CO2 should be reduced by between 50% to 80% by 2050 – while, at the same time, steel production is expected to double by 2050 due to the increase in the world’s population.

James Hennequin, from the Messer Group, was next to present to the EIGA audience. His topic of discussion was about the relevance and implementation of Food Standards FSC 22000’.

He said, “Today I will be presenting several aspects concerning the elaboration and implementation of standards like FSSC 22000 (Food Safety System Certification), risk assessment and procedures, including some case studies related to Food Safety Incidents from our experience.”

“A food may be regarded as likely to be prejudicial to health… as a result of:

- fraudulent, malicious or accidental practices at all stages of the production, of the processing and distribution;

- the presence of foreign bodies that could cause injury;

- alteration of the characteristics of a food (e.g. package swelling , presence of moulds, unusual or undesirable taste or smell), taking into account in the assessment of the situation of elements such as ‘customer returns’ and/or  ‘customer/end consumer complaints’;

- new scientific data relating to a substance authorised by legislation;

- repetition of non-compliant clearance or end controls (other lots produced by the same establishment and already placed on the market after satisfactory clearance or end  controls can be considered as likely to be harmful);

- and/or the existence of epidemiology linked with human cases even without evidence of a danger in the food.”

Mr Hennequin detailed the legal requirements of industries involved in the Food Safety Legislation and gave examples of incidents – including the wrong plastic material being in contact with food gases, defective food gas installation and how these incidents could have been avoided.

He concluded by saying, “When used as intended, one does not expect adverse health effects from food gases. But unexpected, inappropriate or experimental use of food gas will lead to unknown and non-validated results.”

Finishing the discussion involving CO2 was Air Product’s Prakash Patel who spoke about ‘Hazard analysis for onshore CCS installations’.

Mr Patel highlighted some of the hazards associated with carbon dioxide and stated that, “analysis of the hazard allows risks to be assessed, understood and designed out where appropriate”.

Day one of the EIGA Symposium 2013 concluded with focuses on electronic gases and helium.

Just under two hours later, attendees were taken to the EIGA 90th Anniversary dinner – which was held at the Autoworld Museum, in Brussels.