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Air Products’ Statement on Sumitomo Precision Products Co. Ltd. (SPP) Fabricated Brazed Aluminum Heat Exchangers

Update: July 17, 2020

Summary: Sumitomo Precision Products Co. Ltd (SPP) manufactures and supplies brazed aluminium heat exchangers to industrial gas companies and process industries. Following notification by SPP of administrative nonconformances in SPP’s manufacturing of these brazed aluminium heat exchangers, several associations and parties, including Air Products, conducted thorough technical assessments and concluded that the safety and mechanical reliability of the heat exchangers are not compromised and that they are safe to continue to operate. As always, Air Products has and will continue to operate our facilities safely and in good faith, and we are committed to keeping our customers appropriately informed.

  European Industrial Gas Association’s Position Paper (July 2020)
Compressed Gas Association’s Position Statement (July 2020)

Conclusion: Based on the evaluation of this operating experience, CGA and EIGA believe that SPP supplied brazed aluminium heat exchangers are reliable and safe. SPP’s reported non-conformance does not affect the mechanical integrity of these heat exchangers and no new actions are needed for continued safe operation.

Background

Industrial gas companies, including Air Products, and other process industries purchase brazed aluminum heat exchangers from SPP as a component, primarily in air separation plants.

SPP recently made Air Products aware of some administrative nonconformances in the manufacture of certain heat exchangers by SPP and its contractor welders. Prior to being placed in Air Products’ equipment, the units in question were inspected and received the appropriate approval stamp and/or certification, indicating they were approved for installation and use per the applicable welding code. 

At the time of manufacture, as evidenced by documentation received from SPP as well as the appliable stamps placed on the heat exchangers, Air Products believed and understood these heat exchangers to be manufactured in accordance with the applicable welding codes. 
 

Air Products’ Investigation

Air Products’ senior technical experts have performed an assessment of the safety and mechanical reliability of SPP heat exchangers, reviewing records related to approximately 1,400 SPP heat exchangers over the past approximately 40 years (which equates to 16,000 plant years of operation). Air Products has not experienced or received any reports of safety issues involving the welds at issue in these installed units.

Conclusion: Air Products has concluded that the safety and mechanical reliability of the heat exchangers are not compromised and that they are safe to continue to operate. This aligns with investigations by SPP; the Japanese Ministry of Trade, Economy and Industry (METI); EIGA and CGA, all of which concluded that the affected equipment is safe. Therefore, we intend to continue operating our plants and supplying product. 
 

TÜV Rheinland Industrie Service GmBH Certification / Europe

SPP's Notified Body in Europe has made a technical decision to withdraw its certification as to certain heat exchangers previously supplied by SPP in European countries due to this noncompliance issue. Importantly, and consistent with Air Products' own assessment, the Notified Body found no indication of any safety issues in any installed equipment caused by SPP's administrative noncompliance.  

The impact of this certification withdrawal on installed and operating equipment in Europe will be determined solely by the regulatory authorities in affected European countries. SPP, Air Products and its peers will work with the various authorities in Europe to demonstrate the reliability and safety of the installed equipment affected by this decision and to minimize any impact on the operation of such equipment.  
  

Other Certifications

The decision of SPP's Notified Body in Europe does not directly impact SPP heat exchangers in operation in other countries stamped or marked by other certification bodies. SPP, Air Products and its peers will continue to work with relevant certification bodies and authorities around the world regarding this certification issue.

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