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Singapore – an IECEx trailblazer

Author : Prof. Dr. Thorsten Arnhold is Chairman of IECEx and VP Strategy & Technology at R. STAHL AG

17 July 2017

This time I am writing from Singapore, a city I always like to visit. Every time I come there are interesting changes - beautiful new buildings have been erected, new parks laid out or a new stadium opened. I like the clean streets with all the friendly and industrious people and the quiet evenings on the Singapore River. Unfortunately, I am always in the city on business and must be missing many of the city’s other attractions.


Nevertheless, that business is important. Singapore is one of the countries that for many years has directly accepted IECEx Certificates of conformity (CoC) for explosion protected products. It is also participating very actively in other IECEx system schemes. For example, 57 persons have received a certificate of personal competence (CoPC) and 10 repair facilities are certified within the service facility scheme.

I also have the opportunity to visit many process industry customers, both national and international. There is no other place in the world where so many large petrochemical, chemical and pharmaceutical companies, EPCs, machine builders and shipyards can be found in such a small area.

As usual, it was a busy week. I visited many customers and found great interest in the IEC and IECEx system. On the last day of my stay, my company, R. STAHL, organised a big customer event. About 200 people accepted our invitation and I had the opportunity to talk about the current status of IECEx, highlight its benefits and answer many questions. There was particular interest in the new regulations on non–electrical explosion protection. The two standards, IEC80079-36 and -37, were published over a year ago and their acceptance among the Certification Bodies (ExCBs) and customers is rapidly growing. During the first half year in operation at IECEx, some 26 CoCs have been published and more than 10 ExCBs got a scope extension.

Singapore is an important location for EPC and OEM companies in the offshore oil and gas business. The interest of such companies for a third party certificate covering the explosion protection of the mechanical parts of equipment such as compressors and pumps seems to be especially high.

Certified repair facilities for the offshore industry show particular interest because of their involvement in the repairing and overhauling of large and expensive explosion protected equipment such as single motors and pumps.

During my discussions with end customers and experts in these repair facilities, I was often asked what activities are permitted and what is forbidden at repair facilities. My answer? Always look in the standard. IEC 60079-19 provides a detailed specification of all dos and don’ts.

Even the drilling of holes in flameproof encapsulations is possible under certain circumstances, as paragraph of 60079-19 points out: “The drilling of holes into an enclosure is a modification and shall not be carried out without reference to the manufacturer's certified drawings, or, in exceptional circumstances, e.g., manufacturer discontinued trading, to the certifying authority.”

This means that there has to be a close relationship between the manufacturer of the flameproof product and the repair facility. For such critical issues it is more than important that a competent and independent certification body is looking after the fulfilment of all specified requirements. By doing this, our IECEx system is building trust between the parties involved - the original manufacturers, the repair facilities and the end users.

I was also asked how the repair facilities should act in future with regard to non-electrical explosion protection. As mentioned before, we are now starting to certify this. But what about the repair and overhaul of these products in a couple of years’ time? There is no easy answer to this question. Even in the new 5th edition of IEC 60079-19 which is under preparation (CDV status), the new topic is not mentioned. And the 6th edition will not be published for at least another six years. So the repair facility has to follow the general requirements of the standards, which are valid both for electrical and non-electrical equipment.

If there is a need for special specifications for non-electrical equipment, IECEx could help out with an Ex TAG decision sheet until the 6th edition of the standard is published. This is a good example of the close cooperation between the standard generation process in IEC committee TC 31 and the IECEx system.

So, step by step, we are developing standards and conformity assessment procedures, greatly assisted by the feedback we receive in Singapore and around the world. By doing this, we follow technical advances in different areas and make the whole system safer and more convenient for all stakeholders.

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