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Stainless Steel Uses In High Pressure Gas Cylinders

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Stainless steel is such an integral part of our lives it’s easy to assume that it has always been with us, but this is not the case. In fact, stainless steel was only developed 100 years ago.  In that time, it has completely revolutionized almost every industry, changing the way we eat, travel and live.

One of the many fields that have been affected by the continuing developments in stainless steel is gas storage.  Being able to safely and efficiently store gases under high pressure is not easy to do, but thanks to stainless steel alloys the difficulties have been overcome in a safe and reliable manner.

If you work in an industry that requires high-pressure cylinders that are safe to use, easy to work with and affordable, stainless steel is probably your best option.  If you’re working with oxygen, carbon monoxide, or another gas, stainless steel has you covered thanks to the metal’s many beneficial properties.  The friendly and knowledgeable sales professionals at Clinton Aluminum can help answer your questions on how to select the best material for any job.

Contact us today to learn more!

What is a High Pressure Gas Cylinder used for?

A gas cylinder is a pressure vessel able to contain and store gases at pressures much higher than atmospheric levels.  High pressure cylinders can also be referred to as tanks or bottles.  Within the container, the contents can be in a state of compressed gas, vapor over liquid, supercritical fluid, or dissolved in a substrate material.

In order to release the gas held inside in a controllable manner, these cylinders are typically fitted with a valve and nozzle at the top.  This allows the cylinder to be connected to the appropriate reception apparatus.  Most people are familiar with the oxygen tanks used for scuba diving or the red fire extinguishers commonly found in workplaces and apartment buildings; both of these are examples of gas cylinders.

These cylinders can be made from all kinds of materials, including carbon steel, but most modern high-pressure cylinders are made from aluminum, stainless steel, or carbon fiber; the latter materials all having a combination of strength, light weight and corrosion resistance.

They can also be found in all kinds of industries.  Any time it is necessary to safely transport and store compressed gases, high pressure cylinders are the solution. Their availability in a variety of shapes, sizes and weights means they are adaptable to many situations.  One factor that goes into the adaptability of these tanks is the choice of material.  With so many different stainless steel alloys at their disposal, manufacturers are able to tailor the tank to the desired specifications.

The types of gaseous substances that are regularly stored in high pressure cylinders include oxygen, helium, silicon hydrides, hydrogen, krypton, nitrogen, argon and fluorine.  There is another class of gases that liquefy when placed under high pressure, such as carbon dioxide, propane, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, butane and ammonia.

Furthermore, some cylinders are used to hold substances that liquefy under high pressure and lowered temperatures, such as liquid nitrogen, liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. These are known as cryogenic gases.  In order to house them safely, the cylinders will need to be equipped with a bleed device that will prevent overpressure from rupturing the container.

Finally, there’s what’s known as dissolved gases.  These tend to be very unstable and can explode even at atmospheric pressure.  In order to prevent this, the cylinders are filled with a porous, inert material that the gas will be saturated into in order to make the solution stable.  The primary example of this is acetylene (it’s the same principle under which carbon dioxide is infused into a soft drink).

What stainless steel alloy is most commonly found in Gas Cylinders?

When selecting a material, some of the primary considerations include mechanical strength and impact resistance.  This is because the container must be durable enough to stay intact even after suffering an impact, especially when dealing with highly volatile substances or in dangerous work environments that might involve heavy machinery, open flames, cutting tools or collisions.

Another primary consideration when dealing with gases is corrosion.  Certain metals, such as carbon steel, are prone to rust or other types of corrosion.  This is a major reason why stainless steel is so popular for gas cylinders.  Weight is also an issue, so materials like stainless steel that offer a high strength-to-weight ratio are desirable.

304 stainless steel fills many of the requirements when it comes to gas cylinders.  The most popular of the stainless steels, it is alloyed with a combination of chromium/nickel and classified as an austenitic stainless steel.  It is nonmagnetic, and its microstructure allows it to resist heavy impacts.  It possesses the corrosion resistance typical of all stainless steels and is easy to maintain and clean.

What are the safety concerns when using High Pressure Gas Cylinders?

Even stable, non-toxic gases such as oxygen can prove dangerous under high pressure.  That’s why safety is a primary consideration whenever working with gas cylinders.  Things to be aware of include the following:

  • Make sure that all gas cylinders, including empty cylinders, are secured in a safe, temperature-controlled environment.
  • When storing cylinders make sure they are upright in ventilated areas.
  • When not in use make sure the cylinder is properly capped, including empty ones.
  • Keep cylinders safely away from electrical wiring.
  • Mark cylinders as empty after use.
  • Keep cylinders safely away from corrosive vapors and heat sources, including direct sunlight.

Summary

If you are selecting materials for high pressure gas cylinders, it’s wise to consult technical professionals with an understanding of stainless steel alloys.  At Clinton Aluminum, we pride ourselves on our ability to help our customers make informed purchasing decisions. Our goal is to be true partners that can help you select and procure the right material for your application.

Contact us today to speak with one of our stainless steel experts.

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