Compressed gases such as zero air, nitrogen and hydrogen are commonly used in the laboratory for a broad range of instrumentation including GC with FID, LC-MS and FTIR. In many laboratories, the compressed gas source is a high pressure gas cylinder. Handling and storing these cylinders may seem like a mundane task, but if done carelessly, without safety in mind, gas cylinders can leak or explode, causing serious property damage and/or injury.
Proper handling techniques
The safety process starts with delivery. Once the tanks have been inspected and accepted from the vendor, they must be secured in a vertical position for transportation to the laboratory or the storage area. Tanks should only be moved using wheeled carts specifically designed for this purpose. To minimize physically moving the cylinder, the cart should be positioned close to the cylinder. The handler should then carefully “walk” the cylinder on to the cart and fasten it securely with straps or chains so that it cannot slide, tilt, or fall over. Carts should always be used to move cylinders, even for short distances. Never drag cylinders or roll them in a horizontal position. Never lift a cylinder by the cylinder cap or by using magnets.
Proper storage requirements
Cylinders must be stored in a vertical position in a well-ventilated, above-grade, weather-proof storage area that is a safe distance from combustible materials, ignition sources or intense heat. Store gases according to hazard classifications. Incompatible gas types should be separated —for example, flammable gases should be separated from oxidizing gases. Separation of incompatible gas cylinders can be achieved by open space (20 or more feet is recommended), fireproof partitions, or approved storage units.
Because they conduct electricity, metal cylinders must be kept away from electrical circuits, open flame, sparks, etc. Never place a cylinder close to an electrical conductor, such as a metal pipe, that could accidentally carry current.
It is recommended that cylinders not be stored in areas that exceed 125°F (52°C). Gas expands when heated and increases pressure in the cylinder, increasing the risk of explosion. Tanks should not be stored where they will be in direct sunlight. Personnel sometimes overlook the fact that direct sunlight can increase temperatures in storage areas to well above 100°F—a potentially dangerous situation if compressed gas cylinders are stored there.
A safer, more cost effective alternative to compressed gas cylinders
One way to eliminate the risks and hassles of handling and storing compressed gas cylinders is not using them at all in your daily operations. An in-house gas generation system is a safe, effective and economical way to provide the gas you need, at significantly less cost, compared to compressed gas cylinders. An in-house gas generator, such as a Parker FID Makeup Gas Generator, eliminates the need for tanks because it uses compressed air to generate purified nitrogen and zero air on a 24/7 basis. Other advantages include:
- Safety—in-house generators operate at low pressures and store small volumes of pressurized gas compared to cylinders, eliminating risk of rapid release of gas
- Eliminates risks of handling and storing heavy gas cylinders
- Gas delivery is automatic, reliable, and relatively inexpensive
- Cost of operation is very low, compared to high-pressure gas cylinders
- Eliminates need for periodic inspection of cylinders
When considering factors such as energy used, maintenance, cylinder cost, demurrage, labor, order processing, shipping, invoice processing and inventory control, using in-house gas generation is about ten times less expensive than operating a tank delivery system, and far safer.
For additional information, read "A Guide to Safe Handling of Compressed Gases in the Laboratory" .
This post was contributed by Kim Myers, product manager, Gas Generation, and Judy Silva, Gas Generation Technology Blog, team member.