China on the agenda

The 2017 IECEx International Conference targets safety for the Chinese Ex industry

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.

Shanghai, China
The 2017 IECEx International Conference took place in Shanghai, China, on 11-12 April

World’s leading coal producer...

As was the case with previous IECEx events – Dubai (United Arab Emirates) in 2012, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) in 2014 and Gdańsk (Poland) in 2015 – there were good reasons for organizing the 2017 conference in Shanghai. 

While China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal and the largest user of coal-derived electricity, the coal mining sector is undergoing structural changes. The percentage of coal in the energy mix has dropped from 64% in 2015 to 62% in 2016 according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics. Moreover, in July 2016, the commission in charge of state-owned enterprises ordered companies under its supervision to cut coal mining capacity by 10% in the next two years and by 15% in five years. 

Economic – a drop in coal prices – and environmental considerations – reducing the CO2 output and curbing air pollution – have played a role in the decisions made by the Chinese authorities to close a number of mines. 

…and crude oil importer

China is the world’s top crude oil consumer and importer. According to the annual report of the China Petroleum and Chemical Industry Association (CPCIA), in 2016 China consumed daily 11,5 million barrels of oil, over a half million barrel increase from 2015. Because domestic production is around four million barrels per day, China is heavily dependent on the international market for its oil supply. 

Gas on the rise

Until recently, gas played a relatively small role in the Chinese energy mix. However, Chinese authorities consider natural gas as a lower-polluting and less carbon-intensive alternative to coal, and gas consumption is increasing rapidly. According to the US Energy Information Administration, natural gas is expected to supply 10% of the nation’s energy supply by 2020.

Raising awareness on safety in general

This is why raising awareness on all matters pertaining to the Ex field, such as design, principles and practical applications of area classification, equipment installation, operation and repair is of the utmost importance for China. It is vital for those working in Ex areas as well as for those living in the vicinity of such sites. 

The event

Holding the IECEx International Conference in China is a step in that direction. Organized by the IEC and IECEx, together with the Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People’s Republic of China (CNCA), in conjunction with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the two-day event was a unique opportunity not only to learn more about IECEx, but also to get involved and network with the Ex community. 

This year again, the speakers’ list included 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 were able to share their experience and knowledge on all matters pertaining to the Ex field with around 400 participants.  

The conference was chaired by IECEx Executive Secretary Chris Agius. The welcome and keynote addresses were respectively given by CNCA Deputy Director Liu Weijun and IEC Vice-President and Conformity Assessment Board (CAB) Chair Ulrich Spindler. 

In a video message, IEC General Secretary & CEO Frans Vreeswijk said that “the IEC Conformity Assessment (CA) Systems are crucially important not only for business and world trade but also for the safety of humans and of the environment. They are the bridge between the written words in our Standards and the real world. It is this duality that allows companies and governments to fully benefit from the know-how of the thousands of experts who participate in the IEC work.” 

The programme dealt with a variety of topics, starting with an overview of IECEx and its operational areas. In his presentation IECEx Chair Thorsten Arnhold shared the System’s vision and how it helps facilitate world trade in equipment and services, how it encompasses the whole life cycle of Ex equipment and how it gives high importance to the human factor. He stressed the advantage of having a single depository for the IECEx certificates (the On-Line Certificate System). 

The speakers who took the floor after Arnhold covered the Ex infrastructure in China, intrinsic safety and design principles, IECEx equipment certification – with an introduction to the recently-published non-electrical (mechanical) Standards, Ex installations and inspection requirements, area classification and end-user feedback. 

A presentation gave an overview of some national or regional Ex verification or approval systems and how the use of IECEx facilitates such approvals in addition to providing international certification. 

An open forum at the end of the second day also gave participants the opportunity to raise many questions concerning IECEx and the Ex sector and to benefit from the experience and expertise of leading experts in that field. 

A representative from UNECE delivered a presentation on why UNECE endorses International Standards such as those from IEC Technical Committee (TC) 31: Equipment for explosive atmospheres, and the IECEx Schemes. 

All presentations were given in English and Chinese with real-time translation. 

Information on the 2017 IECEx International Conference, along with copies of the presentations, is on the IECEx website: - Enquiries should be addressed to