Oxygen for Industrial Use
Oxygen is a very reactive nonmetal known to form oxides easily with most of the elements except noble gases. It is the third most abundant element in the universe by mass after hydrogen and helium. Molecular oxygen represented as O2 occurs only in Earth’s atmosphere which is indispensable for sustaining life on Earth. O2 constitutes around 21% of the planet’s atmosphere and half of its crust chiefly occurring as oxides. Molecular oxygen is the source of combustion and aerobic cellular respiration for getting energy. Major constituents of living organisms like proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, and fats also contain oxygen. However, Earth is constantly replenished with the nonmetallic element through photosynthesis, which generates oxygen from water and carbon dioxide using sunlight.
What is Industrial Oxygen?
Ever since the discovery oxygen in 1774 by the British scientist Joseph Priestley and later the role it plays in combustion by Antoine Lavoisier in 1777, the use of oxygen in industrial operations especially in the manufacturing and chemical sector has expanded exponentially. Combustion is the primary property of O2 which sustains burning process across various industry verticals. There are numerous materials that do not burn in the presence of air but will readily combust in air enriched with oxygen in industries like steel & iron, glass, non-ferrous, etc.
In combination with a fuel gas, oxygen is also used for welding, brazing, cutting and glass blowing because of enhanced combustion efficiency and higher temperature flame. In chemical industry, high purity oxygen is crucial for enhancing productivity of oxidation reactions. A large number of chemical compounds are produced through the process oxidation. In short, industrial oxygen is used for enhancing the efficiency of combustion and increasing efficiency of oxidative reactions.
How is Oxygen Produced for Industrial Use?
Oxygen with purity up to 99.7% is produced through liquefaction and separation of atmospheric air. The process of cryogenic distillation begins with taking atmospheric air which is then filtered and compressed. Then the compressed air moves into a cleanup system comprising of twin molecular sieves where impurities such as hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide and moisture are eliminated. The cleaned air now enters heat exchangers where it is cooled to very low temperatures. Now, the liquefied air is moved into a high pressure distillation column where oxygen is separated from nitrogen and other trace gases. Cryogenic oxygen is collected and is moved into a low pressure distillation column for distillation in order to get desired purity.
Applications of Industrial Oxygen
It is used in wide range of industries with heavy concentration in steel and chemical industries accounting for 75% of all commercially produced oxygen. It is used in industries including: Plastics & textiles, Welding , cutting and brazing, Waste water treatment, Paperwork, Glassblowing, Aquaculture.