The dynamics of success

IECEx is thriving despite the many challenges posed to the oil and gas sector

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.

Shanghai cityscape
The 2017 IECEx International Conference will take place in Shanghai, China on 11-12 April

Fossil fuel demand still growing

However, while “the energy transition is gathering momentum, oil, coal and natural gas still account for more than 80% of primary energy demand. Demand for fossil fuels will continue to grow, in part because of the difficulties in finding alternatives to oil in road freight, aviation and petrochemicals […],” according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) World Energy Outlook 2016

To meet these demands, the oil and gas industry has built larger and more complex installations for extraction, processing and distribution, and made higher and higher capital investment. To protect this investment and the persons working in and around these installations, compliance with international safety standards is paramount. 

Safety is non-negotiable in the Ex sector

The IEC has long been involved in developing International Standards for equipment used in hazardous areas. Set up in 1946, IEC Technical Committee (TC) 31: Equipment for explosive atmospheres, has a complete series of International Standards that cover all specific requirements for equipment and systems in explosive (Ex) areas, from general requirements to protection levels for apparatus used by all sectors that operate in hazardous environments, such as oil refineries, offshore oil rigs, gas plants, mines, sugar refineries, flour mills, grain silos and the paper and textile sectors. 

All sectors of the Ex industry have embraced IEC International Standards but producing equipment based on Ex Standards is not enough. Most manufacturers, suppliers and end-users trade on the global scene and have to meet the very strict requirements put in place by national regulations and legislation – proving their adherence to those requirements can be both costly and time-intensive. 

UNECE endorsement for IECEx

To provide a global and credible means of ensuring compliance with its International Standards, the IEC established IECEx, the IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Explosive Atmospheres. 

Since its inception in 1996, IECEx has established mechanisms in place to help industry, authorities and regulators ensure that equipment (electrical and non-electrical) as well as the people working in Ex locations benefit from the highest level or safety. 

IECEx certification has become the world’s single best practice for demonstrating compliance with International Standards. Its credentials include acceptance by end-users – oil and gas, mining, transportation and many more – as well as the formal endorsement by the United Nations, through the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), as the recommended model for regulating the safety of equipment and persons working in areas where the potential for an explosive atmosphere may exist. 

Want to learn more about IECEx?

To help the Ex industry sector become better acquainted with the System in general and find out how to benefit from the services it provides, IECEx organizes international conferences that give a good overview of the System and its Schemes, address a number of topics relevant to the Ex sector as well as issues concerning requirements and regulations in the region. 

Register for the IECEx International Conference

After, Dubai (United Arab Emirates) in 2012, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) in 2014 and Gdańsk (Poland) in 2015, the IECEx event will focus on China. The 2017 IECEx International Conference will take place in Shanghai on 11-12 April 2017. 

Organized by the IEC and IECEx, together with the Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People’s Republic of China (CNCA), in conjunction with UNECE, the two-day event is a unique opportunity to learn more about IECEx, get involved and network with the Ex community. 

The speakers’ list includes leading experts involved in standardization, equipment manufacturing, inspection, repair and overhaul of Ex equipment and systems, as well as in the assessment and certification of personnel competence. Through their presentations and contacts with participants, they will share their experience and knowledge on all matters pertaining to the Ex field.

All information on the IECEx International Conference can be found on the IECEx website: Enquiries should be addressed to

One doesn’t change a winning team

At its meeting in Frankfurt, Germany, during the IEC General Meeting, the Conformity Assessment Board (CAB) approved the nomination of Thorsten Arnhold for a second three-year term as IECEx Chair, and that of Chris Agius for a further five-year term as IECEx Executive Secretary. 

Thorsten Arnhold

Prof. Dr. Thorsten Arnhold, Vice President Strategy and Technology at R. STAHL, has been involved in IECEx for many years. He has seen the System grow and expand and has participated actively in its development and management, even before he became its Chair in 2014, serving on the Management Committee and in several Working Groups. 

During Arnhold’s first term, the number of published test reports and certificates was improved by more than 40%. Against the background of the dramatic oil price decrease in this period, this increase is especially impressive. The oil and gas industry covers the biggest part of hazardous areas by far. “The significant increase of our activities in times when the economic situation is difficult shows how robust our organization is and how great the international demand for the services of our member institutions. We can justifiably say that IECEx plays a leading role worldwide in certifying products, services and personal qualifications for hazardous areas”, explains Arnhold. 

Chris Agius

Agius has held the Secretariat position since the system began some 20 years ago. He has a long-standing involvement in the development of national and international standards and certification systems. Before joining IECEx he held various key positions within the Standards Australia Group, including those associated with the development and management of product/service-related certification schemes, including the AUSEx and ANZEx Schemes. 

“I am proud and happy about the unanimous confirmation of my work as Chair of IECEx”, says Arnhold. “I am also especially happy about the fact that our Executive Secretary, Chris Agius from Australia, has also been unanimously confirmed in his office. With him, his team in Sydney and all the other active members of IECEx we have achieved much we can be proud of in the past three years. And we have already prepared the next big steps.” 

More information on IECEx:

About R. Stahl

For more than 90 years, R. STAHL has been a trendsetting manufacturer of safety technology for hazardous areas. Based in Waldenburg, Germany, the company is one of the world's leading suppliers of explosion-protected automation, control and distribution, installation, operating and monitoring, lighting, signalling and alarm components and systems. Key products include customer-specific systems solutions for hazardous areas. R. STAHL's individual packages containing tailored product combinations and a wide range of services such as consulting, project planning, engineering and training courses for customers are designed to fully meet application requirements and customer needs. International certifications, approvals and patents demonstrate the company's expertise and allow for R. STAHL's products to be used throughout the world.