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How Oxygen and Nitrogen generators are used in manufacturing companies

In-house generation of oxygen and nitrogen ensures continuous availability of oxygen and nitrogen, removing the risk of a production breakdown due to delivery issues or supplier shortages. It avoids the hassle of constant order processing for refills and delivery costs associated with bottled gases

Contact us to learn more

March 17, 2020

How Oxygen and Nitrogen generators are used in manufacturing companies

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Using Oxygen and Nitrogen in industry

The air we breathe contains two gases that are extremely useful in industry: oxygen (about 21%) and nitrogen (about 78%). Adding oxygen to a process enables better control of heating patterns, higher furnace efficiencies (for lower fuel consumption) and reduction in particulate and NOx emissions. It’s used with fuel gases to enhance processes including gas welding, gas cutting, oxygen scarfing, flame cleaning, flame hardening and flame straightening. Oxygen is a raw material in many oxidation processes and to regenerate catalysts. Nitrogen gas is used for purposes ranging from inerting and purging to flushing and sterilizing to product transfer and packaging. Many such processes remove undesirable oxygen from a manufacturing process or environment, preventing oxidation that can damage metal parts and sensitive electronics. Nitrogen is also used in refining and gas separation processes. Since oxygen and nitrogen occur together in the air, they must be separated before they can be used. The right tool for the job is an oxygen generator or a nitrogen generator.

How an Oxygen generator works

Oxygen molecules are separated from the other molecules within a clean, dry compressed air stream. Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) is a simple, reliable and cost-effective technology that enables continuous, high-capacity oxygen flow at the desired level of purity (90% to 95%). Adsorption happens when atoms, ions or molecules from a substance (compressed air in this case) adhere to a surface of an adsorbent. PSA technology isolates oxygen molecules from other molecules (nitrogen, CO2, water vapor and trace gases) to leave high purity oxygen at the outlet of the generator.

The process takes place in two separate pressure vessels (tower A and tower B), each filled with a carbon molecular sieve, that switch between a separation process and a regeneration process.

Here’s how it works.

How a Nitrogen generator works

Nitrogen molecules are separated from other molecules within a clean, dry compressed air stream.

Pressure Swing Adsorption technology is used here as well, to isolate nitrogen molecules from other molecules in compressed air to leave nitrogen at the desired purity at the outlet of the generator.

For some applications, such as tire inflation and fire prevention, relatively low purity levels (between 90% and 97%) are required. Other applications, such as food/beverage processing and plastic molding, require higher levels of purity (from 97% to 99.999%).

Benefits of on-site production

An image showing an application of nitrogen generator in a factory
Compared to the delivery of gas bottles of oxygen and nitrogen, in-house generation offers many key advantages. For example, it ensures continuous availability of oxygen and nitrogen, removing the risk of a production breakdown due to delivery issues or supplier shortages.

It avoids the hassle of constant order processing for refills and delivery costs associated with bottled gases. It also eliminates the space and special handling requirements for full gas bottles in inventory and empty bottles awaiting pickup, refill and re-delivery.

Industries that use Oxygen

• Steel
• Food & beverage
• Pharmaceuticals
• Plastic injection molding
• Laser cutting
• Semiconductors
• Gold and silver mining/extraction
• Oxyfuel combustion
• Chemicals
• Pulp & paper
• Metal heat treatment
• Cable & optical fiber
• Glass
• Fire prevention
• Fish farming
• Waste-water treatment

Industries that use Nitrogen

• Electronics
• Steel
• Welding/metalworking
• Lighting
• Oil & gas
• On-Board Inert Gas Generation System (OBIGGS)
• Ammonia production
• Helium purification
• Product transfer
• Packaging

A variety of systems are available for generating industrial oxygen and nitrogen, including all-in-one skids that combine a compressed air system (to supply the required stream of dry compressed air) with an oxygen generator or nitrogen generator.

Ask an air system professional about the best solution for generating oxygen and nitrogen in-house.