Transportation of flammable materials such as gas, and chemicals in vessels, require a solution to prevent fire and explosion from the vessel. Inert gas system offers a practical solution to this and other industrial challenges.
What is an inert gas? It is simply a single component or mixture of gases which are unreactive under a given conditions.
With respect to combustion, inert gas refers to a gas mixture that has insufficient oxygen to sustain combustion. A system that generates inert gases (typically based on combustion of hydrocarbon fuel) is called Inert Gas System (IGS). Industrial volumes of inert gas used in a wide range of applications are generated via Inert Gas Generators.
Inert gas generators have horizontal combustion chamber design which prevents fuel spill through drain line in case of misfire (fuel deposits are captured inside combustion chamber and completely burnt on next firing). The IGS burns fuel in designed quantities to give perfect combustion. This provides an exhaust which is largely nitrogen and carbon dioxide with very small composition of oxygen. The gases pass through a cooling and washing chamber to remove sulphur and excess carbon.
Inert gas system is extensively used in the maritime and in the petroleum industry. It is popularly used in the arc welding industry to protect the tungsten from adulteration. Inert gases are very commonly utilized in food packaging industries to remove oxygen thereby acting as healthy preservatives. Once you can replace the oxygen in a storage container with inert gases, biodegradation is significantly minimized.
Chemical manufacturing industries prevent fire hazards by routinely saturating their environment with inert gases while performing reactive activities. Petroleum refineries use inert gas systems to purge units prior to turn around maintenance. In the petroleum industry, inert gas systems also provide a safe environment in offshore tankers used for storage and transportation of flammable petroleum products. This also has implications for insurance covers.
Clearly, the availability of inter gases is critical for some processes and industries. For such scenarios, if an IGS starts malfunctioning during operations, transfer operations must be suspended immediately, and not resume until the IGS system is in good working condition or an alternative supply is provided.