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60 seconds with...Stefan Kukula, EEMUA

Institution News Team

The EEMUA's Chief Executive shares his excitement of being a part of the IMechE's Lifecycle of Pressure Systems conference in October.

For further details of the conference and to book your place, please visit the event website.

Please could you briefly explain your role, involvement, and experience with regards to the Pressure Systems industry and this event?

Stefan Kukula (SK): I’m Chief Executive of the Engineering Equipment and Materials Users Association (EEMUA), an international non-profit membership body for owners and operators of fixed industrial assets – expensive capital plant with high degrees of hazard to people and the environment. High pressure systems are integral to many of these sites – if not the majority. Much of the guidance and training that EEMUA produces is aimed at instilling industry accepted good practice in this area, and we are a long-standing contributor to the IMechE Pressure Systems Group.

What, in your experience, has been the biggest roadblock for the industry over the past 2-3 years?

SK: In that specific period – COVID, which has thrown the spotlight on long standing skills shortages. The necessity for postponements has produced a backlog that the industry is now working through. Coupled with skills shortages across many areas, and other draws on the talent pool around new build, we need to make sure that the critical role of looking after vital national infrastructure is properly recognised and supported.

What key topics are you excited to discuss at this year's conference?

SK: Having outlined the above issue, my topic can be very loosely summarised as “What EEMUA has done and is doing about it.” How we view competence in the field, what approaches our Members take, and where we are going in the future. We have work ongoing in the areas of maintenance and ageing assets – which are directly relevant to pressure system lifecycle, and I aim to feed in some of the discussions we have been having. I am hoping for some conversations, maybe even an argument or two – hopefully a civilised debate.

What would you say are the technologies or applications to watch for the future?

SK: I’m going to pick a couple of areas in the field of inspection and maintenance. The first is a move to app driven processes, where standards and guidance are incorporated into a digital platform, accessible at the workplace, often on a handheld device. There is a risk sources can be screened from the user, and the procedure becomes purely mechanistic. While the drivers behind the move are clear, there is still a need to understand what is “under the hood”. We are working with operators and developers to ensure that the link is maintained. The other key area of development is robotic inspection. One of the things we are working on is validation; it is not just the capability that is important. It is having confidence in capability, which is founded on evidence.

A further trend to watch is where the move to net zero requires more local generation and thus more pressure systems, sometimes operated by new entrants. We must ensure that the competence to operate them safely is there from the start, and not gained through bitter experience.

Who else are you most interested in hearing from on the programme?

SK: That’s a difficult choice. Many of those presenting are well known to EEMUA, and always have useful things to say. Nawal Prinja was my first boss 35 years ago, so I feel a need to attend his presentation on digital design methods! Perhaps more relevant to my current role are presentations from the regulator, and other industry bodies, such as SAFed, BCGA and PVMf, all of whom we frequently work with in this area. On the other hand, at a large event I try to attend sessions out of my usual field to learn something new. But then I tend to be the one who goes to professional networking events and spends half an hour having a great chat to the trainee lion tamer.

Why is it important for engineers to join this conference?

SK: There is a reason that engineering institutions require engineers to continue professional development. The field itself is constantly developing, and methods and techniques improving. Without that learning across the field, there is a risk that the same mistakes will be repeated, again and again. Not taking an opportunity to reduce the risk of harm caused by plant under your care would be a huge mistake. Plus, it should be enjoyable – and there are not many activities that will both advance your career and are fun.

The Lifecycle of Pressure Systems conference will take place on 31st October - 1 November 2023 in London

The conference is a comprehensive two days of updates that brings together every area of the pressure systems community.

Don't miss this “state of the industry” designed to update all those involved with pressure systems and equipment and for all asset stages: from design and installation to daily operation and decommissioning.

For further details of the conference and to book your place, please visit the event website.


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