With businesses now having to increase their operational efficiency to survive, the latest in-situ gas generation technology couldn’t have come at a better time.
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. 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.
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.
To address this issue, the leading manufacturer of modular gas generation technologies, Parker Hannifin Ltd 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.
So how does it work?
Parker 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 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 nitrogen generators has maximised gas output and reduced compressed air consumption to achieve even higher levels of efficiency than ever before.
The Nitrosource and Nitroflow ranges of membrane nitrogen generators use hollow fibre technology to selectively separate the component gases within air. The generator comprises of tubes containing bundles of hollow fibres each approx 0.5mm diameter. Air is fed through the centre of the membrane fibres where medium to fast gases such as oxygen, carbon dioxide and water vapour dissipate through the wall of the fibre, and are vented to atmosphere. Nitrogen gas is retained within the fibre and is fed through to the application. The Parker membrane is uniquely extremely robust, highly permeable and durable, to ensure a very long trouble-free service life with low cost of ownership.
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.
A more safe and convenient solution
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. For instance, storing cylinders, liquid mini tanks, or bulk storage vessels on site, whether inside or outside the plant, can present serious health and safety risks to employees, which requires a strategy complying with the latest regulations. This in itself can lead to high costs and can require a lot of time spent researching best practice guidelines and legal obligations. Furthermore, once a suitable, safe location is found for the storage vessels, and the necessary pipework infrastructure put in place, moving everything at a later date as the company grows or relocates can be a big upheaval.
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. It is also worth noting that the modular design of the system means that extra banks of columns can be added as required, meeting the changing gas requirements of a growing business easily, and at minimum cost.
Taking control of your gas supply
With fluctuating gas prices and instability in the market, relying on external companies to supply nitrogen can be risky. 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.
Controlled Atmosphere Cold Storage
Case study: Delivering savings for coffee packager
A large US based coffee packager was using nitrogen delivered in liquid form to displace the oxygen in their packs of coffee and prolong shelf-life. This was resulting in considerable costs, which, including the price of gas, delivery, and tank rental, were well into six figures every year. This supply method, which involved pumping the liquid nitrogen into tanks, was also leading to other, less obvious problems; raising objections from the company’s neighbours due to the noise created, and requiring ice to be removed from the tanks with a pressure washer, which could take up to two days each time.
To resolve these problems, the coffee packager decided to install banks of nitrogen generation units at its site, and several benefits quickly became apparent. They no longer needed to worry about late deliveries, fluctuating prices, de-icing the evaporator, or signing long term supply contracts. Most importantly, the financial impact of the new system was dramatic. After a payback period of four years, the company expects to save more than $100,000 per year. With an expected life of over 15 years, this represents a substantial return on their investment.
Generate cost benefits with on-site nitrogen
Generating its own nitrogen on-site puts a food or beverage company in control of its gas supply, producing as much or as little gas as needed, and at a consistent, measurable cost. This more efficient nitrogen supply is a flexible solution to a company's changing gas needs, as the modular design of the latest systems means that extra banks can be added as required at minimum cost. Furthermore, 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 quickly and easily on-site.
A large US-based coffee packager that was using nitrogen delivered in liquid form to displace the oxygen in their packs of coffee and prolong shelf life, decided to install banks of nitrogen generation units at its site. The improvements were immediate; they no longer needed to worry about late deliveries, fluctuating prices, de-icing the evaporator, or signing long term supply contracts. Most importantly, they expect to save more than $100,000 per year after a payback period of four years. With the system providing a service life of over 15 years, the cost savings look set to be substantial.
With food and drink manufacturing, processing, and packaging companies increasingly looking for ways to increase their operational efficiency and decrease their overheads, this new gas generation technology couldn’t have come at a better time. By eliminating the problems and costs associated with sourcing nitrogen from an external supplier and storing it on-site, companies can achieve a considerably more reliable, efficient and affordable source of gas for a wide range of applications.
For further enquiries about Parker Nitrogen Generators, please contact Armin Howard at Parker Hannifin (NZ) Ltd, on 09 574 1744, or email email@example.com.