Top Story
Today, nitrogen is essential to companies across a wide range of industries, from food processing to manufacturing electronics.

As an inert gas, its many uses include enabling the lifespan of foods to be extended, assisting in the laser cutting of metals, and purging oil and gas pipelines.

However, while nitrogen is all around us, making up 78% of the air we breathe, obtaining a ready supply of the gas can be problematic and expensive.

This is a problem exacerbated by the global economic crisis, with budgets tightened and efficiencies even tighter.

Typical supply methods, such as high pressure cylinders, liquid mini tanks, or bulk storage vessels, present considerable logistical issues; a reliable supplier must be sourced, valuable space needs to be found in or outside the plant, and the necessary pipe work must be installed and maintained.

Furthermore, the costs can be relentless, arising from the price of the gas itself, its transportation, cylinder or tank rental, and the resources required to manage the supply process, to name but a few factors.

Gasworld understands that this has changed the dynamics of the equipment market, with a rejuvenated drive for in-situ gas production experienced by the end-user.

Testament to this and attempting to address the issue is Parker Domnick Hunter, the leading manufacturer of modular gas generation technologies.

Parker Domnick Hunter has developed a range of integrated units that enable users to generate their own supply of nitrogen in-situ.

As a result, companies can generate as much or as little nitrogen as they need, at a fraction of the cost of having the gas delivered by an external supplier.

Parker Domnick Hunter manufactures both hollow fibre membrane and Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) nitrogen gas generators.

The new MIDIGAS and MAXIGAS ranges use a principle known as Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) to produce a continuous stream of nitrogen from compressed air.

Inside the units are pairs of extruded aluminium columns, which are filled with a Carbon Molecular Sieve (CMS). Pre-treated compressed air is fed into the bottom of the ‘on-line’ column and flows up through the CMS, which preferentially adsorbs oxygen and other trace gases but allows nitrogen to pass through.

After a pre-set time, the online column automatically switches to regenerative mode, venting contaminants from the CMS and allowing the process to take place all over again.

Whilst using CMS for air separation is not a new idea, the radical design and control system employed on the Parker Domnick Hunter nitrogen generators has maximised gas output and reduced compressed air consumption to achieve even higher levels of efficiency than ever before.

Cutting the cost of nitrogen
Generating nitrogen in-situ in this way, as opposed to having it delivered by a third party, can reduce costs considerably.

Once the system has been purchased, the on-going costs can be reduced by over 90% when compared with cylinders, liquid mini tanks and bulk storage vessels, which present rental, refill, delivery, environmental levy and order processing costs.

For companies previously using liquid nitrogen, the gas generation technology can pay for itself in less than two years, while for those using cylinders, the payback period can be even sooner; less than 12 months in many cases.

In addition to the logistical headaches already addressed, maintaining a constant supply of nitrogen from an external supplier can throw up a number of other problems for businesses.

Infrastructure change and health & safety concerns are just the tip of the iceberg.

Nitrogen generation units offer a much more convenient solution. The latest systems can be installed quickly, easily, and at minimum cost and disruption.

The compact units can be located discretely wherever in the plant they are needed and simply require a pre-treated compressed air stream to start producing nitrogen.

The safety risks of storing, handling and changing heavy, high pressure cylinders are immediately eliminated, complying with regulations and making the working environment a safer place.

Taking control in tight times
With fluctuating gas prices and instability in the market, relying on external companies to supply nitrogen could be described as ‘risky’.

Indicative of the current trends in the equipment market, end-users are currently more inclined to generate their own gas by in-situ technology.

According to Parker Domnick Hunter, “Generating your own nitrogen lets you take control of your gas supply, producing as much or as little gas as needed, and at a consistent, measurable cost.”

“To guarantee 100% back-up, and secure the supply when routine maintenance on one set of systems is required, additional banks of units can be set up in-situ, requiring minimal space and few connections.”

“The convenience, control, and, most importantly, cost benefits of using the gas generation systems, reveal the full extent of the problems with sourcing nitrogen from an external supplier. Thanks to the latest developments, these are issues that can today be avoided. With companies under increasing pressure to cut operating costs and implement more sustainable processes, the technology is right on time.”

With annual sales exceeding $12bn, Parker Hannifin is the world's leading diversified manufacturer of motion and control technologies and systems, providing precision-engineered solutions for a wide variety of commercial, mobile, industrial and aerospace markets.