At the turn of the year I was able to attend the AIIGMA Annual Seminar in Dubai and was given the opportunity to make a presentation on valve technical developments. As usual, it was an exuberant event and you know that the attendees from the India market are taking their business forward as the local industry becomes a true global player.

From there I travelled to South Africa with Etihad Airways, who have been awarded the world’s leading airline for 2011 – and from my first trip with them, you can understand why. The courtesy of the staff from the first moments at check-in was top league, first class and yet not, if you know what I mean.

South Africa is a country I have been visiting for over 20 years and in that time there has been many developments in the country, the people and the industrial gas industry. It has become a global player in every way. The gases industry has developed with the strong gas association that is the SACGA, that has benefited in turn from the experiences of Albert Spencer, who has been in the industry for many years. It is rumoured that Albert was the inventor of the dewar, but we are still unsure if that is the cryogenic container or the whisky vessel! Albert is originally from the Manchester area in the UK and I am sure that the weather and standard of living in South Africa played a big part in his relocation, but I am also sure he misses his beloved Manchester City – sponsored by Etihad, I might add.

The SACGA has an exceptionally strong technical organisation, with the senior positions managed by the major gas companies that are present in the region, notably Air Products, Afrox (of The Linde Group) and Air Liquide. The organisation promotes general awareness in the technology and operating fields throughout Africa. Today, Albert has the role of Technical Adviser. One of the changes the organisation made last year was to increase the installation life of safety valves from their previous period of three years. This extension comes following the extended monitoring of valves that have been installed, and their performance in the field. This will allow the local industry to greatly reduce its component and installation/service costs. Such benefits are now being seen by the industry globally. There is also a surge by the local equipment manufacturers that includes Industrial Research & Development (IR&D), Rand Air & Gas Industries (RA&G) and Gascon, who are manufacturing a full range of equipment for the industry and are now stepping up to the challenge of exporting globally. This has seen vessels, trailers, vaporisers, VJ pipe and, more recently, large containers for the LNG industry being exported.

One of the good parts of visiting the industry is that you get the opportunity to see two parts of the country, Johannesburg and Cape Town. From Johannesburg’s cosmopolitan city life you are only a spears throw from Sun City and Pilanesberg – the start of the great game park adventure. As you move further north there are many private park reserves that just blow you away. You can stand be standing just six feet away from the largest of snakes on a game walk, see animal chases, or even join the lions at their dinner table. In Cape Town you are only an hour’s drive from some of the best sights in the world. You can be on Table Mountain looking over the vast beyond, visit Robben Island where Mr Mandela was imprisoned, be in Stellenbosch tasting some of the world’s top wines, or (in their spring season) take in Simon’s Town and watch the whales perhaps only five yards from the beach – or be at the end of Africa at Cape Point. I would close with this bit of advice: if you ever get the chance to make industrial gases your reason to visit this great country, then take it.

Published On: April 1st, 2012 / Categories: Company /