I begin April’s Onsite Industry Update with news that following the easing of the Covid-19 restrictions of the last two years, EPC-UK is delighted to announce its attendance at a series of significant industry events. Our physical return to key exhibitions has been keenly anticipated, with plans to showcase our capabilities at The European Federation of Explosives Engineers (EFEE) World Conference on Explosives & Blasting in Maastricht in May and at Hillhead in Buxton, Derbyshire in June. 

At EFEE, we will be exhibiting in international synergy, supporting the EPC Groupe in demonstrating our innovation and expertise within the drilling & blasting sector and benefitting from a European platform from which to present our latest digitized Vertex solutions.

These same Vertex technologies will form the keystone capabilities of our Hillhead delivery this year, where we look forward to showing visitors the highlights from the technical paper which is to be presented at the earlier EFEE conference.

Fulmination Award recognition

The digitalized advancements we’re bringing to the industry are streamlining customers’ commercial goals and enhancing safety, further progressing EPC-UK’s professional achievements. So too is the recognition we realise as a result.  This month we attended the IExpE’s International Explosives Conference and Fulmination Award Ceremony, which saw our successes celebrated as two highly regarded employees were nominated for individual award commendation and our company overall was positioned runner up for the accolade of Company of the Year.

Business continuity planning 

My admiration, as ever, is directed towards our valuable teams who continue to work hard and with evident passion across EPC-UK’s operations.  As the geopolitical crisis between Russia and Ukraine continues, we all remain hopeful for a hastened resolution to the situation and its adverse international affects. For now, against the current backdrop of uncertainty, our industry must navigate the challenges presented to the best of its ability and use the contingency planning, team integrity and considered leadership we’ve developed to effective use.

– Diesel rules

At the beginning of this month the government’s expected rule change on the use of red diesel came into effect. Whilst rebated red fuel may still be used for EPC-UK’s agriculture purposes, white diesel is now the only option available for our commercial drilling & blasting operations, including off-road use in vehicles or equipment. Benefiting from 2 years’ notice regarding the change, we have prepared accordingly, supported by our drive to reduce emissions overall and work towards net zero. We have in advance, analysed fuel spend and built the industry-wide cost increase into our pricing model, albeit with the recent volatility in energy prices further impacting supply costs.   

– AN supply

Over recent months I have kept customers updated of the situation regarding current supply pressures of Ammonium Nitrate (AN) – a key ingredient used in commercial explosives manufacture and supply, as well as an essential component of the national economy. When rising energy prices forced AN manufacturer CF Fertilisers to cease operations at its Billingham plant last year, agreements made by the carbon dioxide (CO2) industry to support production came into effect, enabling continued AN manufacture and supply. At present, the situation remains unchanged.  CF Fertilisers’ Billingham plant continues to operate. Whilst global gas prices remain volatile, there has been some softening in recent weeks. However, this has been compounded by the lack of volume purchased by the agriculture market. This supply / demand effect means prices remain unseasonably high and the ramifications of these strange dynamics in the market are set to continue we believe for some time. 

In addition, EPC-UK’s effective business continuity plans have helped secure sufficient stock to maintain our own and customers’ operations for several months, as we prepare for every eventuality during these uncertain times. 

I also wish to reiterate that neither EPC-UK nor its suppliers are sourcing raw materials or components directly from Russia. Furthermore, regarding our supply of explosive accessories, such as boosters and detonators, I can confirm that we have no direct ties to Russia or Ukraine. 

Whilst raw materials and energy prices will continue to have a financial impact upon customer costs for the foreseeable future, our commercial teams are putting all preparatory measures possible in place to ensure continuity of supply and that customers are prioritised and informed and together we hope that a positive outcome to this globally affecting conflict is realised soon.

Ben Williams
Managing Director, EPC-UK