Used in a range of industries, nitrogen generators ensure a steady supply of 99.5% pure, commercially sterile nitrogen from a compressed air storage tank. From an industrial standpoint, nitrogen generators are seen as preferable to cylinders of nitrogen as they are more reliable, more compact, and easy to use and install. However, these generators are not without risk. Learn about nitrogen generator installation best practices and how to stay safe when using these devices in your facility.
Where are Nitrogen Generators Installed?
Since nitrogen generators have such a wide array of end use cases, they wind up getting installed in different commercial environments. Nitrogen generators may exist in:
- Brewing operations - To sparge and mix the wort
- Food processing and packaging plants - In the food packaging process
- Industry - To test and clean tanks and vessels
- Engineering facilities - For use in manufacturing, testing, and product development
- Automotive plants - In paint booths
These generators offer a steady supply of nitrogen at a lower cost than using gas cylinders. One generator takes up less room than several cylinders, saving floor space where it is needed most. A generator is easy to install and simpler for employees to use (since it requires less maintenance) than cylinders, so many manufacturers have switched from using cylinders of nitrogen to using generators.
Nitrogen generators are most often operated indoors, as these typical use cases show. In the event of a leak or other problem with the generator, escaping gas has nowhere to go other than inside the building. In some cases, the building may be set up so that nitrogen generators vent to the outside, thus offering a buffer from the harmful gas; however, it is not always possible to vent the generator to plain air.
That said, these units do post a risk. Nitrogen is a colorless, odorless gas that creates an oxygen deficient state. If the generator were to develop a leak, nitrogen gas could leak out undetected into the work environment. In a matter of minutes, nitrogen gas from a leaking tank can deplete the workspace of oxygen. To protect the health of your employees, it is necessary to only use nitrogen generators in conjunction with an oxygen monitor, which alerts staff to low levels of oxygen.
Why You Need an Oxygen Monitor With Nitrogen Generators
An O2 monitor, or oxygen monitor, continually monitors the level of oxygen in the room. When there is enough oxygen, the detector stays silent. A normal oxygen value is 21 percent by volume. If something unexpected happens -- such as a nitrogen leak -- and the amount of oxygen in the room begins to fall, the monitor sounds an alarm and flashes to grab staff attention. This way, staff have advance knowledge and can leave the work space before oxygen levels fall too low.
Oxygen monitors can alert staff if levels fall too low (19.5 percent or less) or too high (23.5 percent or above). Low levels of oxygen pose a severe health hazard for individuals, while high levels of oxygen pose a fire and combustion hazard.
Without an O2 monitor in place, staff would have no knowledge of a nitrogen problem until it was too late. When oxygen levels fall below the acceptable threshold, staff can become disoriented and fatigued, while succumbing to a euphoria that can dissuade them from noticing that something has gone wrong. Loss of coordination and mental processing skills, followed by poor judgment, vomiting, nausea, and eventually death by asphyxiation as oxygen levels continue to fall.
An additional consideration for large facilities is that nitrogen gas is often used far from the actual location of the generator. Thus, even if the generator you have purchased comes with an O2 monitor of its own, the monitor may not be able to test working conditions where the nitrogen is actually in use. A facility may need multiple oxygen monitors to make sure that all areas where nitrogen gas is used have acceptable air quality.
PureAire offers O2 monitors that work in conjunction with nitrogen generators. PureAire's line of oxygen detectors rely on zirconium sensors, which are guaranteed to work for at least 10 years without calibration. When it comes to protecting your staff, it's the wise choice.