Maximising margins: Trends in gas analysis instrumentation for improved argon recovery


The air that we breathe into our air separation unit (ASU) costs money in the form of electrical power. Our return comes from selling the oxygen, nitrogen and argon that we compress. Whilst the oxygen and nitrogen have contracted customers with pipeline supplies, the profitability of modern ASU operations is often driven by what we do with the argon molecules that we have access to.

In the early days of industrial gases, people thought of argon as a by-product but today, it is often at the heart of industrial gas economics.

The idea of selling by-products is common in the chemicals industry and the two main challenges are to extract them effectively from the process and extract their full commercial value in the market. In fact, the term ‘by-product’ is often substituted with ‘co-product’ to give them equal status and recognise their true value. At times of peak argon demand, industrial gas operators may be running their ASU extra hard to maximise argon production and spilling excess oxygen or nitrogen. On days like this, the argon is not the by-product, it’s the lead product. So how can ASU operators maximise the amount of argon they produce?

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