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I recently attended an international conference in Barcelona. The event was about safety solutions and, among other topics, it also dealt with hazardous areas. For me, as the IECEx Chair, there were many interesting conversations with end users, solution providers and certification bodies. It was very positive to see that the international acceptance and reputation of our System is continuously growing.
Every year sees its share of oil spills, gas leaks or industrial explosions that could have dire consequences for human beings as well as for the environment. They can be caused by the wrong or faulty equipment, poor maintenance and/or by poor operating procedures or mistakes.
Each year sees an increase not only in the number of countries participating in the IEC Affiliate Country Programme but also in the number of International Standards adopted as national ones, national electrotechnical committees (NECs) established and Affiliate Plus status granted. In the past 12 months, the Programme has seen changes in its leadership, and the Secretariat has been extremely busy supporting participating countries through workshops, seminars, webinars and training sessions, to name but a few of the activities organized to raise awareness and know-how in developing countries.
Since the beginning of the 2000s, IEC Central office in Geneva, Switzerland, has decentralized some of its activities, establishing regional offices first in North America, then in Asia-Pacific, Latin America and lastly in Africa.
Every day, whether at home, in the workplace, hospitals, airports or other public places, we come into contact with many devices and their operating systems, which we expect should function safely and reliably.
Explosive (Ex) atmospheres – also termed hazardous areas/locations – which can be caused by flammable gases, mists or vapours or by combustible dusts, are by no means restricted to the oil, gas and petrochemical industry sectors.
Every year IEC honours the commitment and work of a number of individuals in its community who, through their leadership and technical expertise, have contributed to making products and electrical systems safer, more energy efficient, more reliable and more compatible.
Natural disasters may lead to industrial accidents but man, through non observance of strict safety measures, is more often than not responsible for damages, injuries and fatalities.
Faced with a “What-will-you-be-when-you-grow-up” question, a kid will choose rather conventional careers such as policeman/woman, astronaut, teacher, football player, actor, or singer; models and TV stars are more recent additions to the list. It’s pretty certain that no kid has ever said “I want to be an expert in explosive atmospheres!”
In just six years, the IECEx international conferences have made their mark and have become must-attend events on the annual conference circuit for the Ex industry sector. After Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2012, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2014, Gdańsk, Poland, in 2015 and Shanghai, China, in 2017, the city of Split, in Croatia, will host the fifth IECEx International Conference on 23 April 2018, so make sure to save the date in your calendar!
The times when a degree was the ultimate stage in your educational development are long gone. And so are the jobs for life. People today are more likely to switch profession more than once in their lifetime. They may have to completely reinvent themselves to embrace a new career. Even when they stay in their specific domain, technological advances and the digital age in general requires adaptation and ongoing training to keep up with the fast pace of the 21st century.
Every year, the IEC pays tribute to people from its organization, for their distinguished work and commitment to improving the safety, compatibility and energy efficiency of electrical products and systems, with its Thomas Edison Award.
In his address to Council, Frans Vreeswijk, IEC General Secretary & CEO, reminded the audience that digitization is a key focus for both industry and standards organizations. Standards will play a key role in the digitization of industry, healthcare and every other part of our life. The new Masterplan, approved and published prior to the General Meeting in Vladivostok, Russia, sets the goals and expectations for the Commission, in this area among others, for the years to come.
While the part of renewable energy sources - solar, wind, marine and hydro - in the energy mix has been growing steadily in recent years, fossil fuels still play a major role in energy generation, distribution and consumption.
Every year the IEC honours the commitment and work of a number of individuals in its community who, through their leadership and technical expertise, have contributed to making products and electrical systems safer, more energy efficient, more reliable and more compatible.
Natural and industrial or accidental disasters can take many forms and have devastating human and material consequences. Some may be prevented or their impact mitigated through forecast, others not. Rescuing victims and repairing damage are essential for a return to normal life. Standardization work by a number of IEC technical committees (TCs) and subcommittees (SCs) may help warn of impending disasters as well as aid in assessing, repairing and mitigating their consequences.
All IEC regional centres are focal points for IEC standardization activities in their respective part of the world. They have greatly contributed to raising awareness on and promoting the Commission through country visits, participation in international, regional and national events, networking and establishing an ever growing number of invaluable contacts.
Year in, year out, the list of incidents happening in hazardous areas doesn’t seem to be diminishing. The oil and gas sector has had its share of fires and explosions, obviously, that have been widely reported both in the general media and in specialized trade publications. But it’s not alone. Mining is another sector where risks are high for a number of reasons, including leaks of poisonous gases, dust explosions, collapsing of mine stopes, flooding, or improper use/malfunction of mining equipment, e.g. safety lamps or electrical equipment. Not to mention sugar refineries and food processing plants, and any industry that operates, even partially, in potentially explosive atmospheres.
Each year sees an increase not only in the number of countries participating in the IEC Affiliate Country Programme but also in the number of International Standards adopted as national ones, national electrotechnical committees (NECs) established and Affiliate Plus status granted. In the past 12 months, the Affiliate Secretariat has been extremely busy supporting participants in the Programme through workshops, seminars, webinars and training sessions, to name but a few of the support activities organized to raise awareness and know-how in developing countries.
Today, many devices and services found in homes, hospitals, the workplace and industry run off electricity. Such machines and equipment can be dangerous if they malfunction, causing explosions, fires or electrocuting users or anyone who comes into contact with them, in addition to damaging property.
IECEx, the IEC System for Certification for Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Explosive Atmospheres, chose to hold the 2017 IECEx International Conference in Shanghai, China, on 11-12 April 2017.
Natural and industrial or accidental disasters can take many forms and have devastating human and material consequences. Some may be forecast, others not, and there may be a range of significantly different outcomes. Standardization activities by a number of IEC technical committees (TCs) and subcommittees (SCs) may help warn of impending disasters as well as aid in assessing and mitigating their human and economic impact.
Explosions in a wide range of industrial or other installations can be caused by the wrong or faulty equipment, and/or by poor operating procedures or mistakes. Risks can be significantly reduced if equipment and systems that meet IEC Standards developed by IEC Technical Committee (TC) 31: Equipment for explosive environments, are used.
This article was first published in HazardEx on 20 April 2017 - subheadings and "About IECEx" section were inserted editorially by IEC
The one subject guaranteed to get everyone hot under the collar is the subject of the marking of Ex Equipment. There is not much disagreement about the need to identify the equipment type, its operational parameters and its manufacturer, but everyone seems to have an opinion on how the hazardous area code should be expressed. The discussions at the recent IEC TC 31: Equipment for explosive atmospheres, standards meetings in Sydney, Australia, were no exception, and we will return to this later. But first, we need an historical perspective.
Some industry sectors are automatically associated with explosive (Ex) atmospheres – oil and gas, petrochemical plants, mining and in particular coal mining. Many others won’t necessarily come to mind although the risk of fire and explosion exists and needs to be heeded. Food processing, sugar refineries, grain handling and storage, printing, paper and textile industries, sawmills, woodworking areas or waste treatment operations are all potential hazardous areas. Not to mention gas stations or aircraft refuelling and hangars.
When the term electric vehicle (EV) comes up, it usually brings to mind electric cars and possibly buses or other means of urban transportation. Seldom do we see the mention of industrial vehicles, although they represent 60% of the global EV market. Even rarer is the mention of Ex-proof industrial EVs, which are increasingly used in hazardous areas, replacing diesel-powered vehicles.
The IEC regularly supports key global and regional industry events, which can present the IEC endorsement on their website and materials.
The IEC regularly supports key global and regional industry events, which can present the IEC endorsement on their website and materials.
The oil and gas industry sector has faced many challenges in recent years. The severe drop in oil prices has affected companies and economies throughout the world. In parallel, the need to for developed and developing countries to tackle climate change, introduce cleaner energy sources – renewables such as solar and wind, hydro – into the mix and become more energy efficient has seen some significant results when the Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016.
The IEC regularly supports key global and regional industry events, which can present the IEC endorsement on their website and materials.
With the steady increase in energy demand from developing, emerging and developed countries, the recent drop in oil prices as well as national or regional regulations to drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the oil and gas sector needs to explore new avenues to expand productivity and at the same time cut down costs. One way to achieve this is to embrace smart technologies.
Over the past few months, the Standardization Management Board (SMB) approved several new Chairs who have taken up their roles.
The interoperation between electrical and mechanical energies has existed for a long time. In standardization and conformity assessment, the need to provide a holistic solution to cover both is vital for industry and the community. While this may have been a given for most industries, the Ex sector has, for many years, focused exclusively on electrical equipment for its standardization and conformity assessment needs. This is no longer the case.
During his address to Council, IEC General Secretary and CEO Frans Vreeswijk highlighted the main achievements since Minsk and talked about important ongoing projects.
Explosive (Ex) atmospheres – also termed hazardous areas/locations – which can be caused by flammable gases, mists or vapours or by combustible dusts, are by no means restricted to the oil, gas and petrochemical industry sectors. The risk of fire or explosion exists in a variety of other sectors, such as transportation – including aerospace – furniture manufacturing, automotive manufacturing and repair, pharmaceuticals, food processing, grain handling and storage, sugar refineries and coal mining. They all utilize flammable substances in quantities that may result in concentrations that are potentially explosive, whether that is during normal operation or due to abnormal situations arising.
Closed-circuit television (CCTV) is increasingly used in locations that need constant monitoring – banks, casinos, airports, military installations or shopping malls, to name but a few. A great number of municipalities around the world have installed CCTV cameras in sensitive areas of their cities to deter criminality and monitor traffic. Many industry sectors resort to video surveillance in their manufacturing processes. And video cameras are playing a major role in the monitoring and management of explosive (Ex) areas.
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), long associated with gaming and entertainment only, are really developing into essential tools for a number of industry sector: healthcare, education, architecture, urban design and civil engineering, tourism, sports viewing, film and so forth. The explosive (Ex) industry is also beginning to see the advantages of using AR/VR in their daily operations. The mining sector in particular has a lot to gain from adopting these new technologies.
Batteries come in all forms and shapes and are probably the most common and widespread means of energy storage. From the AA or AAA type you buy at your local supermarket to the highly-sophisticated new generation of batteries used in smart portable devices, there are millions of products on offer. Not to forget electric vehicles (EVs). To increase their capacity and minimize their size, the batteries that power them are the focus of intense research and development throughout the world.
Contrary to preconceived ideas, hazardous areas are not the “privilege” of a few specific industry sectors. They can be found almost anywhere at any given time when certain conditions leading to the formation of an explosive atmosphere are met.
Do you realize that your local bakery may be a potentially hazardous location? In fact any area where flour, sugar, or any other type of powder is stored or processed is a potential risk area. Your kitchen as well, if you think of it, since you’re bound to regularly use a wide variety of ingredients in powder form.
During his address to Council, the IEC General Secretary & CEO, Frans Vreeswijk, provided a brief overview of key accomplishments since Tokyo and drew the audience’s attention to a number of topics of high importance for the future relevance of the Commission.
It is with immense sadness and regret that we have to inform the IEC community of the tragic death of IECEE Chairman Ron Collis on 10 November 2015. Ron Collis had been the victim of an unfortunate accident a month ago and never woke from a deep coma. He leaves behind his wife Marion.
Workers are increasingly mobile and a growing number of enterprises around the world provide their workforce with mobile devices such as tablets, phablets or smartphones. Moreover, many people favour tablets over laptops when traveling or doing field work. The Ex industry sector is no exception.
Taipei in June, Bosley in July and Tianjin in August: colour powders blown in the air and allegedly ignited by the heat emanating from the spotlights during a colour festival in Taiwan, a building collapsing at a flour mill site in the UK and warehouses storing hazardous chemicals totally devastated in China. These three cities made headline news for dramatic reasons, i.e. massive explosions that killed many, seriously injured many more and caused significant damage.
Switching on a light is such a routine task that we often take it for granted, however for millions of people worldwide, this is far from the case. The IEC is delighted to be associated with the global initiative, International Year of Light, adopted by the United Nations under the patronage of UNESCO.
The dramatic incident at the Formosa Fun Coast, a water park in Taiwan, at the end of June was an extremely tragic but important reminder that dust explosions are real and that any activity that involves the use of powder or dust is potentially hazardous.
Pipelines are widely used throughout the world to transport oil, gas and other fluids over long distances and across continents. They are frequently subjected to extreme climatic conditions and huge temperature variations that can cause serious damage to the outer shell. This is why companies operating these lines use preventive methods to detect clogging or worse, cracks and flaws that can have disastrous consequences.
Big Data is set to change the way we work by improving operations and allowing faster, more accurate analyses which lead to more informed decisions being made. Confident decision-making could in turn lead to greater efficiency, reduced risks and cost savings. While the oil and gas sector hasn’t really embraced the concept yet, it could derive huge benefit from it.
Anyone of us can be in close contact with Ex or explosive atmospheres. They are not restricted to oil refineries, offshore oil rigs, gas plants or mines. While many industries operate in potentially hazardous environments, risks are also present in transportation: gas station or aircraft refuelling zones fully qualify as Ex areas.
More than a century ago, the introduction of electrical apparatus for signalling and lighting in coal mines provoked many electrically-induced explosions of flammable gases and dust. Consequentially, specific types of protection were developed to prevent explosions by eliminating contact between an explosive atmosphere and an ignition source.
In just three years, the IECEx international conferences have made their mark and are becoming must-go events on the annual conference circuit for the Ex industry sector. After Dubai, UAE (United Arab Emirates) in 2012 and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2014, the city of Gdańsk, in Poland, will host the 2015 IECEx International Conference on 22-23 April, so please save the date in your calendar!
Hiromichi Fujisawa, IEC Vice President and Chairman of CAB (Conformity Assessment Board) will step down at the end of 2014. Under his competent and thoughtful leadership IEC CA (Conformity Assessment) Systems have become stronger expanding their portfolio to better serve industry. A new CA System, IECRE, saw the light of day and will serve the needs of the renewable energy industry, in particular wind, marine and solar PV, and a new governance structure will provide a strong basis for the future. Fujisawa has left his mark on the IEC and the IEC CA Systems in many positive ways.
IECEx (IEC System for Certification to Standards relating to Equipment for use in Explosive Atmospheres) has continued to grow in the past year. The IECEx International Conferences – in 2012 in the UAE (United Arab Emirates), and in 2014 in Malaysia – have contributed to increase awareness and visibility in the Middle East and Asia. The IECEx Certified Persons Scheme, launched in late 2010, has really taken off since 2013, benefitting from the support of several majors in the oil and gas industry.
The DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) is extremely rich in natural resources. In its soil lie huge amounts of metal and mineral ores such as diamonds, gold, copper, tantalum and the world’s largest reserves of cobalt. While artisanal and small-scale mining still plays an important role in ore extraction, the country is increasingly developing its industrial mining sector.
In less than 20 years, the LED (light-emitting diode) technology has emerged as an increasingly popular light source. LED-based lighting solutions, first used in commercial and industrial environment, can now be found in all kinds of environments and applications. The new generation of LED lights is more efficient, less costly, lasts longer and can be fitted in any kind of lamp or luminaire available on the market.
Batteries are probably the most common and widespread means of energy storage. From the AA or AAA type you buy at your local supermarket to the highly sophisticated new generation of batteries used in EVs (electric vehicles) or by utilities, there are millions of products on offer.
AFSEC (African Electrotechnical Standardization Commission) and IECEx (IEC System for Certification to Standards relating to Equipment for Use in Explosive Atmospheres) are organizing an international seminar in Lumumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on 7-8 September 2014. The event is organized in collaboration with AFREC (African Energy Commission) and OCC (Office Congolais de Contrôle), and in partnership with the Katanga mining authorities and Moïse Katumbi Chapwe, the governor of the Katanga Province.
While many countries throughout the world are integrating renewable energy sources into their energy mix, they still rely heavily on fossil fuels. According to the IEA (International Energy Agency), as primary sources of electricity generation, oil, gas and coal together account for the lion’s share (67,4%) of the world’s supply (IEA 2010).
Wherever cereals are grown in large quantities it is common to see silos used to store grain. Not so common is the knowledge that in these silos, or with any of the food processing equipment likely to be found alongside them, the thin layer of dust resulting from the processing has the potential to make a farm go up in flames.
It is important that the people working in explosive areas are competent and have the most up-to-date knowledge. Not having this knowledge could have serious repercussions, including costing live
In explosive areas, seemingly small failures can have disastrous effects. To meet the world’s ever increasing demand for energy, the oil and gas industries have built larger and more complex installations for extraction, processing and distribution, requiring increasing levels of capital investment. To protect these investments and the people working in the installations, compliance with International Standards is paramount.
Fujisawa gave an update on CAB activities in the 12 months since the Oslo GM (General Meeting). He talked about the creation of IECRE, the new IEC CA (Conformity Assessment) System for renewable energies, presented the work of some of the CAB working groups and of the WT CAC (Wind Turbine Certification Advisory Committee). Furthermore Fujisawa provided insights into the process that is currently being undertaken to harmonize the basic rules of the three CA Systems, IECEE, IECEx and IECQ.
IECEx, the IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Explosive Atmospheres, and UNECE, the United Nations Economic Commission, were invited to present a joint paper at the 2012 PCIC (Petroleum and Chemical Industry Committee) Europe Conference, which takes place in Prague, Czech Republic, on 19-21 June.
The 2012 ‘IECEX International Conference: Equipment and Services in Explosive Atmospheres’ was held in Dubai, UAE (United Arab Emirates) on 20-21 March, marking the launch of the IECEx in the Gulf. The conference was organized by ESMA (Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology) in collaboration with IECEx and UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe).
This original article was published in Hazardous Area International, a media sponsor of the Dubai conference.
The 2012 IECEx International Conference on Equipment and Services in Explosive Atmospheres took place in Dubai, UAE (United Arab Emirates) on 20-21 March. Holding about 10% of the world oil reserves and 20% of natural gas resources, the United Arab Emirates was a natural location for this conference.
While conformity assessment is a given in industrialized countries, the concept has not necessarily been fully integrated into developing economies. Recognizing the need to raise awareness and provide a better understanding of the specific requirements linked to standardization and conformity assessment activities, UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization) has been implementing a series of projects, tailored specifically for developing countries.
A BBC News item dated 30 December 1986 announced that more than 200 canaries still employed in UK mines were to be made gradually redundant throughout 1987. The article stated that “new electronic detectors will replace the birds because they are said to be cheaper in the long run and more effective in indicating the presence of pollutants in the air otherwise unnoticed by miners.”
Based on an article published on the HazardEx website
IECEx Executive Secretary Chris Agius received the HazardEx Lifetime Contribution to the Industry Award on 29 February 2012 at a gala dinner that took place during the annual HazardEx event in Harrogate, UK. The Award recognizes an individual for making a significant personal contribution to improving health and safety in hazardous areas.
Offshore oil platforms, refineries, shipyards, gas and oil tankers operate 24 hours a day. Most human activities may go at a reduced pace at night but the tanker will continue to trace its route across the ocean, the rig will continue to drill or pump oil, and refineries never stop refining crude oil. Night-shift crews need powerful and reliable lighting to be able to work when it is dark. Lighting fixtures, as with any other piece of equipment or device used in hazardous areas, have to be explosion-proof.
The oil and gas industry makes a large contribution to the financial well-being of middle-eastern economies. All countries in the region have huge oil and gas resources. Oil producing and processing operations are well established, and the gas industry sector is expanding rapidly. This also means that a great number of people are employed by oil and gas companies, either directly on the production and processing side of the business or in repair and maintenance.
Testing and certification of Ex (explosive) equipment and its servicing is essential, as is the assessment and certification of competence of those individuals that install, repair and handle equipment in hazardous areas. Safety depends on it.
Incidents such as the explosion that caused the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 clearly demonstrate the need for the strictest safety measures not only for equipment operated in hazardous environments, but also for the people who man these installations and often work in harsh and extreme conditions.
IECEx, the IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Explosive Atmospheres, was invited to address these issues, focusing primarily on personnel competence, at the IEC industrializing country workshop which took place during the General Meeting in Melbourne. IECEx is the only international system that covers the testing and certification of equipment, repair and overhaul facilities and personnel competence.
Pipelines, tanks and vessels that store or transport potentially explosive substances are frequently subjected to extreme climatic conditions and huge temperature variations. Confronted with the problem of protecting equipment from freezing or ensuring that products were stored at the correct temperature, engineers were quick to find a solution: electric trace-heating cables.
Oil and gas refining, chemical processing, coal mining, paper and textile manufacturing, grain handling and storage, sugar refining. These are very different industrial sectors that have one thing in common. They all have hazardous areas in which flammable liquids, vapours, gases or combustible dusts present a fire or explosion hazard. The use of on-site electrical equipment just adds another spark to this dangerous mix. IECEx, the IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Explosive Atmospheres, is globally recognized as helping companies tame hazards in Ex (explosive) areas.
Middle Eastern countries that have a large number of oil producing and processing operations are expressing a strong interest in IECEx, the IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Explosive Atmospheres. To help educate interested parties about the System and learn how the region can benefit from it, ESMA (Emirates Authority for Standardization & Metrology) has taken the initiative and approached IECEx to host a major event in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
In Iraq, one of the world's three leading oil-rich countries, the first signs of economic recovery are in place, but total reconstruction and restoration of existing superstructures and infrastructures is still a long way off.
Potentially explosive environments are obvious terrains in which to choose to deploy robots. During the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, robotic submersibles were sent underwater to contain and ultimately cap the spill on the sea floor, where direct human intervention was impossible. But most robots used in Ex atmospheres don't operate in such difficult and extreme conditions.
China has seen huge economic changes in the past three decades. The state began to reform its economy at the end of the 1970s, shifting from a state-planned to a market economy. This move gave many industry sectors free rein to develop and grow, locally and internationally. Chinese industry is now a major player in the global market. China is also the country that has the world’s largest population.
In April, IEC TC (Technical Committee) 31 and SC (Subcommittee) 31M were proud to announce the publication of ISO/IEC 80079-34, the first standard to be developed by this unique subcommittee.
In January 2011 the United Nations, via UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe), recommended the IEC and IECEx, one of the three IEC Conformity Assessment Systems, as the world’s best practice model for the verification of conformity to International Standards.
Ex or explosive atmospheres are not restricted to oil refineries, offshore oil rigs, gas plants or mines. Many other industries also operate in potentially hazardous environments: sugar refineries, flour mills, grain silos and the paper and textile sectors, to name a few. Ex risks also exist in transportation.
Ron Sinclair, Managing Director of the private certification body Baseefa Ltd., was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in the UK’s (United Kingdom’s) 2011 New Year’s Honours List for his services to Certification and Standards.