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Interview of Jean-Charles Guilhem: Why PCIC Europe and PCIC Middle East matter? By Kristina Hakala



A quick check into the rear-view mirror is a surprising experience when you meet with PCIC committee members. You actually enter the rough cycles of an industry characterized by harsh environments and non-negotiable safety and security requirements.

Jean-Charles Guilhem missed the first PCIC Europe conferences, since the launch in 2004, but has caught up since. As Chair of PCIC Europe from 2013 to 2016 he doubled the attendance in PCIC Europe and created PCIC Middle East. Currently in the role of General Assembly Board Chair, he consolidates the organisation of PCIC Europe for further development and helps the committee, representative of end-users, EPCs and manufacturers, to take over new challenges and facilitate decision making.

For those who didn’t realise it, PCIC is about volunteering, so it requires discipline in individual time planning from each committee member to make things happen. Two annual conferences are the most visible part of the activity: one in a European capital – the 15th will take place in Vienna, and the regional sister event, PCIC Middle East, in Abu Dhabi, since 2012.

Offstage we find the prerequisite for success - the discipline of all committee members and sponsors to follow strict rules to avoid any commercial bias. Then, reciprocity applies and end-users, EPCs and manufacturers can share lessons learned from the field.

“This continuous and mutual share is crucial”, says Jean-Charles and mentions the revealing example of the variable speed drives. “Imagine standard equipment with up to let’s say 80MW motors. All of a sudden you have the VSDs and can increase the capacity in a revolutionary way.”

“Everything and its contrary was said - and also done”, he recalls.

This is a typical metamorphosis where PCIC, by sharing best practices and analysing failures, gains insight and can clarify the situation thus facilitating the integration of innovation in the industry.

Foreseeing the challenges and analysing minor accidents in order to avoid a catastrophe could be a synthetic summary of PCIC works, but everyone involved admits it – there are no shortcuts in this business.

Jean-Charles takes another example: “When the offshore took the dive and subsea became hot, every manufacturer began to develop their in-house design for connectors. Just imagine the mess for the deployment of a project where the main challenge consists in connecting the incompatible.”

“It is our responsibility to take into account project budgets by introducing common standards”, Jean-Charles adds. “This is the way we prevent accidents, avoid downtime and ultimately save money in the industry”.

He mentions the ATEX directive as another example. “We work in hazardous environments and the explosive atmosphere reaches far beyond the industrial site. How do we protect employees and residents in these areas? What is needed to comply with the very latest updates?”.

“Our role also is to demystify rules and regulations”, Jean-Charles says. And it is necessary to do it together, all stakeholders gathered around the table. “This is far from simple even when we have defined the challenge as such”, he adds and recalls: “Some years back we noticed that up to one third of the proposed technical papers somehow related to the arc flash. This trend we first observed in North America at IEEE/IAS/PCIC Conferences, but the same occurred also here in Europe where the situation is very different”.

“Then, this Arc-Flash frenzy in US created some confusion here in Europe as the incidents described had nothing in common!”.

“It took some time”, Jean-Charles admits, “but then we realised that the connection modes were different. Thus, standards deployed in North America were different from international standards leading to different consequences and protection measures than in Europe”.

The digital age again requires understanding of new concepts, transformation and adaptation.

“This adventure is never-ending”, says Jean-Charles Guilhem. That is why PCIC Europe and PCIC Middle East is on-boarding more young engineers at every conference - to consolidate the current and jointly assist innovation.

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