Air gases were once again in focus today (15th Oct), when gasworld’s Global Managing Editor, Rob Cockerill, was joined by Dr. Jorg Balster of Evonik, and Thomas Scaramellino of Arencibia, for part two of gasworld’s air gases webinar series.

Sponsored by Evonik, discussion and debate for the final part of the air gases series highlighted Evonik’s SEPURAN membrane range of products, applications for such membranes, growth opportunities, argon recovery and much more.

Balster of Evonik was first up, and in fact physically showcased the SEPRUAN technology. A core technology for the company, SEPURAN® separates gases depending on their size and solubility in Evonik’s polyimide fibres.

In the simplest terms, this technology behaves as a filter designed to allow certain gases to pass through while others remain behind. Regardless of the application, our membranes are extremely easy to operate and maintain since the membrane contains no moving parts.

And demand is high for Evonik and this technology right now. When asked If Evonik see strong growth opportunities moving forward, he responded, “Oh yes, we see a lot of this. Especially now, where oil and gas prices are rising, you can see high demand, especially for nitrogen applications, to make inert gases for different processes.”

“But we also have a lot of demand now, even for oxygen enriched air for processes where you use Purna Technologies, because then you can make this process much more efficient. Next to these gases also, of course, you see other applications. CO2 separation from natural gas, classical separation now kicks really in. So there we have a lot of demand.”

“Also what we see more and more is the hydrogen markets and hydrogen market opportunities. So Evonik is also making membranes now for electrolysis.”

Moving away from demand, scalability was a focal point for Balster, who explained that the technology can be easily scaled depending on the customer and the application – and simply too. On his, Balster said, “It’s very simple to engineering. Anybody could do it if they want too.” 

Speaking further on customer adaptability, Balster, continued, “In general, you can say an advantage of membrane technology is that you can tailor security to your needs. And it’s not just limited to one purity, the customer can make all kind of purities.”

Monitoring, Analytics & Recovery Service (MARS)

Arencibia was the next company in focus, and it’s Monitoring, Analytics and Recovery Service (MARS) took centre stage. Giving an overview of the company, and it’s offerings, Scaramellino, said, “Arencibia has been building bespoke recycle systems and operating them for well over three decades now since about the mid 1980s.

“We focus on the segment of the market for very large consumers of bulk industrial gases. Our systems are primarily focused on taking the processed gas, typically argon or helium, but we’ve done it for virtually every inert gas under the sun from the customer’s exhaust at the outlet of their process.”

“Now, the energy intensity and cost intensity of the air separation unit that’s generating that highly pure virgin argon to begin with, customers require that level of purity for the manufacturing process in a wide range of different industries.

“The argon that comes out of their exhaust is typically much higher concentration than the sub 1% that you see in the air, but it’s still not pure enough for them to reuse in their process. So that’s the niche that Arencibia has filled for the last three decades, taking argon that has lost that extremely high purity but is still in a much greater concentration in the exhaust streams than you would find in the atmosphere.

Arencibia’s systems have been designed to collect that exhaust, engage in a wide range of different filtration capabilities. The company has a variety of different system designs that will then purify that argon back to its original supply and return those recovered argon or helium molecules back to the customer at the same or higher level of purity than the virgin argon or helium or other inert gas that they were or industrial gas that they purchased.

“We’ve invested millions of dollars over the last four or five years in deploying this capability, and it enables us to have real time insight into the process, both our customers manufacturing process and our systems collection, purification and return of the processed gas back to the customer,” Scaramellino explained.