Day two of the European Industrial Gases Association (EIGA) saw workshop momentum accelerate. Indeed, delegates divided into three streams A, B and C- each designed to offer a more focused opportunity for discussion about the respective topics- large plants, cylinder plants and healthcare.

Stream A - Large Plants

Stream A saw moderators, Christina Fry from Air Products, Jörg Fischer from Linde Engineering and Bernard Jumeau of Air Liquide, lead discussion on oxygen safety in large plants. Introductory speaker, SOL’s Andrea Mariotti offered his take on the three-part workshop: “Despite the plants being designed and operated by experts, all those involved need to be aware of the risks associated with oxygen. Large plants involve a high number of staff and because the oxygen inventory is so large and the associated pressures and flow are so high, there is inevitably a risk present and accidents, though infrequent, can happen.”

Mariotti pinpointed two particularly significant presentations, he said, “In the first two items discussed we heard about the operation of the main condenser and boiler, the workshop saw the consequence of accidents and the same in the case of bulk storage tanks. We can not afford to face an accident like this again, so we must focus on prevention.”

Thanks to the stream, attendee attention was drawn to several harmonised documents in the EIGA library, all designed to enable the prevention that Mariotti alluded to. In addition, the audience benefited from some valuable speaker’s lessons. Particular nuggets of advice included Dirk Reuter’s observations on the importance of plant surroundings as well as an almost unanimous emphasis on re-boiler hazards.

Despite the plants being designed and operated by experts, all those involved need to be aware of the risks associated with oxygen.

Andrea Mariotti, SOL

Messer GmbH expert Reuter noted, “It is important to check the plant surroundings for any changes in air quality which can be affected by many factors. For instance it is crucial to maintain checks on proximate plants in case they change use or emissions. This can have significant impacts upon your ASU’s operation and safety.” Reuter relayed his message by way of a Malaysian incident in which environmental forest fires prompted a hike in airborne hydrocarbons which subsequently ignited and destroyed a proximate facility.

Such examples just reiterated the need to be familiar with and follow guidelines, and particularly those that are harmonised and based on real-life incidents such as that in Malaysia. Mariotti concluded, “Harmonisation involves a lot of effort and input from various working groups, so I will be brief – the conclusion is we must utilise our resources and share the knowledge that we gain from incidents through these papers, guidelines and symposiums.”

Stream B – Cylinder Plants

At the same time as delegates debated the key issues related to large plants, in the adjacent seminar room, Stream B saw engaged discussion about cylinder plants.

Moderators Angel Arrieta from Praxair, Danilo Ritlop of Messer and both Yara’s Alan Ross and John Romer from Linde led three riveting sessions. Introductory speaker, Air Liquide’s François Joffet reviewed the day’s activity, “An overview of stream B - First of all a warm thank you to the presenters of the stream, we had the opportunity to share very interesting documents and items, which are key elements of interest to all attendees of the meeting.”

“Our session highlighted that oxygen has many properties - one of the main properties is its scope for high velocity and adiabatic compression. The second key item is the need for analysis, it is essential to perform this when we design a new unit or installation, but it is also important for existing installations to protect operators, technicians and engineers. Another key point is the need to gain equipment from qualified suppliers - this is essential,” emphasised Joffet.

All the elements presented by Stream B speakers were of the utmost importance and if you do not follow recommendations then incidents can and will happen…

François Joffet, Air Liquide

Joffet went on to convey the need for carefully selected specialist equipment, he added, “Very often presenters spoke about valve seats - the material of these seats is absolutely essential when dealing with oxygen.” Though this recommendation might seem to be common sense, it was clear from incidents described during Stream B, that the topic is still over-looked.

Combating this, delegates left fully equipped with a run-down of the latest safety literature and best practice guidelines courtesy not only of EIGA, but NASA, BAM, the CGA, IGC and ASTM. As Joffet summarised, “The conclusion is to respect the items you have been warned of – the human factor is frequently involved in incidents and we often see that there was a lack of respect for procedures, or that the equipment used was not of a good specification. In summary – all the elements presented by Stream B speakers were of the utmost importance and if you do not follow recommendations then incidents can and will happen.”

Stream C - Healthcare

Stream C, held in a smaller venue but with an equally robust turnout considered oxygen safety in the healthcare setting. Dual moderated by Jan Strybol of Air Products and Peter Henrys from The Linde Group, attendees learnt from a balanced range of internal and external experts.

Initial attention looked at the use of medical oxyegn, which was explained comprehensively. Further consideration was also made of the physiology of oxygen in a healthcare setting thanks to speakers from external entities such as the National Heart and Lung Institute. The second focus was more centered towards materials and equipment. Audience members were privy to Air Liquide research thanks to Martine Carré who explored the toxic components created during ignition of polymers. Stream C introductory speaker and overall Chair, Carlos Sainz of Praxair applauded the findings on quality of data and particularly commended information relating to the impact of exposure on patients.

Subsequent speakers about materials and equipment also yielded important messages, as Sainz eloquently summarised, “We learnt that devices are very much regulated by EU directives. It became clear from the speakers that presentation of the critical framework, the purchasing process and technical files, were all aspects that needed to be provided to the sector.”

Concluding the stream’s workshop a third block offered insight into oxygen out-with the typical industrial gas confines. Sainz explained, “The latter block really showed us what is important to consider when designing and installing equipment in hospitals. And finally within this block and with an outsiders view of hospitals in Italy, Matteo Lora Moretto of Vivisol discussed the critical factors and what they need from us in order to use oxygen more safely - for example 24 hour response and accurate telemetry.”

Sainz continued, “We then learnt about the new developments and trends in home supply and most importantly, how the whole philosophy behind home therapy is designed to provide mobility for the patient and how this can be translated into guidelines for the healthcare provider as well as the gas supplier.”

Thanks also to speakers - there are hundreds of years of experience in our presenters who left us with a wonderfully rich amount of information to take away.

Michael Wilson, The Linde Group

The latter point provoked heated debate from the floor with delegates discussing how to balance important, but sometimes costly, guidelines against monetary concerns – particularly in growth geographies.

All in all, a highly informative and heated opportunity to discuss oxygen safety in terms of healthcare – indeed Sainz offered a diplomatic yet accurate take on the agenda, “As this part of our business supports human life and health safety is crucial. Therefore we have to observe the reality of official regulations, which is sometimes a bit difficult, costly and time consuming, but it will help us to understand the jobs and tasks of our colleagues in the healthcare business.”

Closing remarks

Day two offered a remarkable overview of the nuances involved in oxygen safety. Speakers covered an almost exhaustive range of topics with a concise and illustrative style. If delegates were intended to leave with a suitcase full of ideas and information to impart to their colleagues, as promised by President Stefan Messer on day one, then the objective was certainly fulfilled.

But before travelling home with a compendium of lessons about oxygen safety, Michael Wilson took a moment to formally close proceedings and thank those involved in hosting EIGA’s 2012 Workshop: “A very big thank you to all in the room. To delegates in the workshops for participation, I think we saw very mature and professional discussion.”

“Thanks also to speakers - there are hundreds of years of experience in our presenters who left us with a wonderfully rich amount of information to take away. The moderators did a fantastic job, helping presenters produce material that reinforces the points but also discovers new information.” Linde’s Wilson concluded by thanking the organizing committee and the EIGA team making particular note of the efforts involved. He closed, “There was clearly hundreds of years of experience for you to take back to your peers, so please do so and convey the information we have absorbed.”