The Big Mistake Almost Everyone Makes With Nitrogen Generation

by Eric Lunsford
April 24, 2017

Many businesses using bottled nitrogen could actually produce their own nitrogen at a fraction of the cost that they buy it.

There are three underlying reasons for this:

  1. A vendor supplying you with bottled nitrogen uses cryogenic distillation which is very energy intensive and passes this cost on to its customers
  2. There are a lot of cases where nitrogen with a higher purity than needed is purchased.
  3. Transport costs associated with moving the gas

Cryogenic distilled nitrogen produced through this process can attain a purity of 99.99% or higher – which is needed for certain applications. 99.99% and higher purity is only necessary in a handful of electronic assembly functions – Pharmaceuticals and food and beverage applications don’t even need 99.99% purity as a rule of thumb.

In many cases nitrogen in cylinders from a commercial gas company is the most expensive option. Costs are slightly lower for liquid nitrogen in a Dewar or bulk tank.

What Purity Of Nitrogen Can I Generate On-Site?

On-site nitrogen generators can be used to create on-demand gaseous nitrogen at purity's up to 99.999%.

What’s important to note is that you can inexpensively produce 95% to 98% pure nitrogen (5%-2% oxygen) which is suitable for a majority of applications – rather than over-paying for higher purity nitrogen from a commercial supplier. The choice of generator largely depends on the purity of nitrogen needed. Whatever purity you need, the level of O2 can be adjusted to your required purity level.

As a rule applications that need nitrogen of 95 to 98% purity, I’d recommend using membrane generators which produce nitrogen at the lowest cost per cubic foot.

Applications such as the blanketing of oxygen sensitive compounds, specialty chemicals and pharmaceutical processing need a high purity stream that requires the use of Pressure Swing Absorption (PSA) generators.

What Are The Costs To Generate On-Site Nitrogen?

On-site PSA and membrane systems are energy efficient and cost effective, requiring only enough energy to power the air compressor that supplies air to the system. Gas industry sources indicate that an air separation plant uses 1976 kJ of electricity per kilogram of nitrogen at 99.9% purity.

At a purity of 98 percent, the energy required for in-house nitrogen consumes 62 percent less energy.

Even for those applications requiring 99.9% purity, generating nitrogen in-house on-demand with a PSA system will use 28 percent less electrically compared to power costs for a third-party produced bulk nitrogen.

If you are looking to end your reliance on third party Nitrogen suppliers, we can help you with a nitrogen generation system that produces the purity you need in the quantities you need for a fraction of the cost of buying Nitrogen in. Call the team at Pye-Barker 404-363-6000 or drop us a line and we can help you design your nitrogen system, supply it and install it.

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