Different industrial gases are used in a wide variety of industries, but most notably in the metal, polymer and food industries.
Industrial Gases Include:
Acetylene (C2H2) is an explosive gas which in the presence of the right amount of oxygen burns with a brilliant flame at a temperature of about 3000°C. Hence the oxy-acetylene blowtorch is widely used in welding and cutting metals with high melting points and this forms almost the sole use for the gas. For chemical synthesis it has been replaced by ethylene and its use for lighting has been superseded by high performance lamps using the noble gases. For cutting operations where the highest temperature and speed are not necessary it has lost market share to cheaper LPG and consequently, acetylene is usually in low or even negative growth.
Argon (Ar) gas is of increasing importance as it is absolutely inert (more so than nitrogen). While for most metallurgical applications nitrogen is sufficiently inert, argon is the choice when extreme conditions (higher temperatures etc.) are used.
One of argon’s main uses is in the steel and stainless steel industry where it is used to stir molten metal (in ladles) and “eject” traces of carbon and nitrogen (to prevent nitrides formation). Argon is also used in some other, rarer metal production and in some aluminum smelting operations.
Argon is a common component of welding gases and gas mixtures for TIG (tungsten inert gas) and MIG (metal inert gas) welding (and more recently laser welding) where it is used as a shielding gas to prevent oxidation of the weld.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is a tasteless, colorless, odorless, nonflammable gas. It is commonly utilized with argon (Ar) as a shielding gas during welding or in some cases it is used in pure vapor state. This prevents atmospheric contamination of molten weld metal during gas shielded electric arc welding process.
CO2 is also used in the production of beer where it is used in various stages of the beer processes, from carbonation, bottling and barreling as well as mass transfer of liquids. The CO2 is also used in the dispensing of soft drinks and beers in pubs and fast food chains.
Dry ice and CO2 snow is used in food preservation. In gaseous form it can be used in protective atmospheres for the transport and storage of food or as an inert gas for purging of pipelines.
Helium (He) is the second lightest elemental gas next to hydrogen. Colorless, odorless, tasteless, nontoxic and chemically inert, helium is nonflammable and has a high thermal conductivity. It is used to create an inert gas shield and prevent oxidation during welding of metals such as aluminum, stainless steel, copper and magnesium alloys. The addition of helium generally increases weld pool fluidity and travel speed.
The reducing properties of Hydrogen (H2) are used to remove oxygen during high-temperature processes such as metal treatment or float glass production. The reactive/reducing properties of hydrogen are utilized to a great extent in intermediate processes in the chemicals/petrochemicals and refinery industries where it is usually produced on-site. Hydrogen is also used to hydrogenate unsaturated fats and oils to thicken them and reduces oxidation. This process finds applications in the manufacture of margarine and edible oils as well as shampoos, lubricants, household cleaners and a variety of industrial products. Hydrogen is a key gas in microchip manufacture where it is used in atmospheres for growing crystals, etching, annealing and bonding. Hydrogen is used in welding mixtures and cutting applications.
Nitrogen (N2) has applications in a wide range of industries, including the chemical, pharmaceutical, petroleum, glass and ceramic manufacturing, metal, pulp and paper manufacturing, and in healthcare. Refineries and petrochemical industries use nitrogen to eliminate dangerous vapors and gases remaining in equipment after the completion of the manufacturing or product transfer process. Nitrogen is also used as a blanketing gas to protect flammable liquids and solids from contact with air, thus maintaining an inert and protective atmosphere in plants storing such materials.
Oxygen (O2) is commonly used, with or instead of air, to increase the amount of oxygen available for combustion or biological activity. This increases reaction rates and leads to greater throughput in existing equipment and smaller sizes for new equipment. Oxygen has numerous uses in steelmaking and other metals refining and fabrication processes, in chemicals, pharmaceuticals, petroleum processing, glass and ceramic manufacture, and pulp and paper manufacture. It is used for environmental protection in municipal and industrial effluent treatment plants and facilities. Oxygen has numerous uses in healthcare, both in hospitals, outpatient treatment centers and home use.
Propane (C3H8) is a colorless, flammable, liquefied gas with a natural gas odor. The flame temperature of the oxy-propane flame is lower than acetylene and propylene. The primary flame releases low BTU when compared to propylene or acetylene, which increases preheat time. Propane is commonly used by scrap yards for cutting carbon steel, where the cut quality is not critical. Where cut quality is not a concern, propane may be a cost-effective fuel gas. Interesting Info: A Propane cylinder has a tank pressure of only 110 psi at 70 Degrees F
Propylene (C3H6) is a colorless, flammable, liquefied gas with a faintly sweet odor. It has high heat release in its primary and secondary flames. The heat release in the primary flame cone is similar to acetylene. The BTU capacity of the outer flame is superior to that of acetylene. Propylene combines the qualities of an acetylene flame with the secondary heating capacity of propane. The fuel gas burns hotter than propane; however, the cutting speed should be calculated on a case-by-case-basis before choosing this as the most economical choice as your fuel gas. Interesting Info: A Propylene cylinder has a tank pressure of only 137 psi at 70 Degrees F
Mixtures of the above available
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