Air Flow North America has received approval to operate its new Turbo Containers in the US for the first time.

One of the biggest issues facing the cryogenics gas industry is making sure that the storage and transfer of extremely cold liquids are stored and transferred safely, efficiently, and with as little loss of product as possible.

Air Flow North America, based in Deer Park, Texas, has announced that the company has received approval from the Department of Energy to operate its new breakthrough Turbo Containers in the US for the first time.

The company has owned a patent on the containers since 2016, which look exactly the same as a regular container in that there is no difference in shape or weight. However, according to Kelly Marull, Sales and marketing manager for Air Flow North America, the Turbo Container changes the game for gas transfer operations. During liquid transfer, usually when there is a low level of liquid left inside of a tank, the transfer slows down or even stop completely because of pressure differential.

“The turbo container is a container equipped by a special turbine technology that allow safer, easier and faster gas liquid transfer,” she said. “We have provided the technology to some of our customers using our container since 2016. We’ve recently got the approval to use the Turbo in the US. We will be able to install Turbos on our US fleet within two months.”

What is the Turbo?

As Marull explains, there are two ways of transferring gas in the unloading operations of cryogenic liquids:

  • Pressure differential only. The container is not equipped with a pump, so a pressure differential big enough between the receiving tank and the discharging tank must be created in order to transfer the liquid. The main problem is that it takes time, especially when there is not much liquid left in the tank.
  • Pump transfer. Some containers in today’s market are equipped with a pump in order to speed up the process. However efficient a pump might be, it first adds weight to the container on which it is mounted to and adds costs as well as maintenance. On top of that, a pump will require a cooling down procedure, which can add easily one hour in the entire process and it will require power (difficult for remote operations) which also means that you need the correct outlet. Transfers are easier than the differential method but it is usually not very smooth, as the pump will work and stop depending on the settings which make the work of the operator more complicated.

Benefits of a Turbo Container

Marull said that the Turbo Container only weighs 12 pounds, which is obviously a factor when considering transportation and fuel costs. It’s also solar powered, as customers are looking for a greener, more environmentally-friendly solution, and it also allows for remote operations in places where electricity may not be readily available such as disaster zones.

“It makes for a faster and easier operation, which is very important on the LNG market especially when you have to discharge a tank or more every day,” she said. “Being your primary source of fuel, you cannot afford to waste time or shut down your operations every time you receive a load. The LNG market also has the particularity of being very new, and some users are willing to convert from their old fuel to the new LNG but it has to be easy operations and not time consuming.”

According to Marull, the main benefits of the Turbo Container consist of the following:

  • It’s a faster process. The Turbo Container allows the operator to accelerate the process of transferring liquid thanks to a small turbine inside of the pipe, allowing the liquid to spin faster towards the pressure building line. This helps to rapidly recreate a pressure differential that will allow transfer.
  • Ease of operation. The operator will have to select the pressure he wants by simply pushing a button on the control panel (that’s about it for his action). She said no additional manipulation is required to regulate the pressure.
  • It’s safer and more mobile. The technology is solar, explosion-proof, and works with batteries, therefore there is less risk associated with working with electricity in hazardous materials environments. Moreover, there is no need to be plugged in so work can take place in any remote places.

Established in 2004, Air Flow has built its reputation on being innovative and providing quality services to its customers. Air Flow North America is the American subsidiary of France-based Air Flow, a group specializing in gas services who exports worldwide cryogenic gases. Air Flow aims at becoming the leading gas logistics company by enabling gas producers to deliver their gas at virtually any location their clients find themselves.

Located in five different countries and with expertise in the fields of cryogenics and thermodynamics, Air Flow is widely acknowledged for its technical leadership in gas transport.