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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.
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.
History provides many instances of technologies developed for military application being spun off and used in the civilian sector for different, broader uses and at lower prices. Drones and other unmanned powered vehicles are a good example.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Meet the IEC 2016 Young Professional Leaders and learn more about how YPs are becoming involved in the technical work of the IEC.
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.
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.
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.
Miners had learnt the hard way that their jobs were fraught with risks – fire damp, methane accumulation or suspended coal dust – when electric power was introduced. All it took to ignite methane for instance was a spark emitted by a lighting fixture or a motor. And the rapid growth of the oil and gas industry in the 20th century and the numerous accidents and explosions that occurred in oil drilling operations and refineries raised awareness of the dangers facing those working in this sector.
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.