Carbon DIoxide, CO2, or Super-Gas?

ILMO Products Company is a trusted supplier of carbon dioxide to Springfield and surrounding areas.

The majority of people not affiliated with the industrial gas industry recognize carbon dioxide, CO2, as the gas used to carbonate soft drinks and as the chemical in fire extinguishers. However, so many different forms of CO2 are employed in the industrial gas industry that it is one of the most versatile gases on the market

Brief History

In the early 1600’s, Jan Baptista von Helmont, a Finnish scientist, discovered CO2 as the gas that resulted from burning wood. In the mid 1700’s an English chemist named Joseph Priestly, discovered that the combination of water and CO2 being dispensed from a fermentation process generated sparkling water which altered the water’s taste and was the driving force behind the start of the soft drink industry.

One of the attributes of the gas that was found was its ability to be easily liquefied. This resulted in it becoming the first commercial industrial gas to be sold as a packaged gas. Eventually, after learning more about the gas, CO2 became the only gas supplied and employed in all three of its phases – gas, liquid and solid.

Gas

Most of us in the industry associate CO2 with the food and beverage industry for its use as a refrigerant or as a shielding gas in welding. There are also additional unique properties of CO2 that contribute to its versatility .

The prime example is when CO2 comes in contact with water and it forms carbonic acid. Although it is not the strongest acid, it is an acid nonetheless and has the ability to regulate the pH in some cases where the pH is an imperative system parameter. This is prominent in different industries such as paper production, textiles, and water treatment processes. One more plus is that carbonic acid is not stored as an acid (such as sulfuric or hydrochloric acids). As mentioned, the CO2 needs water to form the acid so it remains CO2 until needed and unlike many other acids, is not considered harmful.

Liquid

CO2 is stored as a liquid regardless of the container. The pressure in an uninsulated CO2 cylinder is usually around 800 psig depending on the surrounding temperature. The result is that any process using liquid CO2 has be under pressure. Employees in the oil industry are aware that CO2 takes the place of water in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) where the liquid is put in a blend with sand or sand like substance (proppant) and sent down an oil well to recover oil that has been trapped between layers of rock. EOR is a wide-ranging term that can refer to several different processes but the most frequent is fracking. In this case the proppant is forced into the oil rich rock through man made fissures. As a result, the rock fractures and the trapped oil is released. When used in place of water, CO2’s natural expansion of volume from liquid to gas increases the size of the fissure and leads to the recovery of more oil.

It is not commonly known that liquid CO2 is also applied in dry cleaning. In a certain high pressure washer, liquid CO2 is used with a stain remover. The laundry is then cleaned in a normal fashion using turbulence to clean the wash. When the cycle is completed, the dirt, grime and stain remover are separated from the liquid CO2. The liquid CO2 is then extracted for reuse and the laundry is removed clean and dry since no water was used.

Every chemical (element or compound) has a state in which the three phases (gas, liquid and solid) have the same properties and is achieved through proper adjustment of temperature and pressure; this is called the supercritical state. The supercritical state of CO2 can be created in a specifically designed processor. The fluid phase of supercritical CO2 is an exceptional solvent and is used to extract fragrances and color from flowers and plants. This method calls for unique tools and equipment and is executed under high pressure.

Solid

Solid CO2 or dry ice is applied in a wide variety of methods as a coolant. When liquid CO2 is moved through a high pressure line and discharged through special nozzles, it instantly becomes CO2 snow and is used in the refrigeration or freezing of food. Dry ice pellets can be used in plae of regular ice in tubs that hold perishables for long road transportation.

Dry ice in very small form is (about the size of a grain of rice) used as an abrasive to remove coatings from surfaces without harming the surface itself by blasting the rice size pellets through a blasting lance. This is prevalent in the aircraft industry where an airplane’s body has to maintain its integrity and cannot tolerate any damage that would occur with sand blasting. This is also advantageous because is that there is no need to separate the removed coating from the abrasive as the pellets sublimate to CO2 gas leaving the residue particles for easy cleanup.

Referring to CO2 as a super-gas may be overstepping the bounds of the definition, but it is certainly the most versatile product available in the industrial gas market.

To find out more about how you can get carbon dioxide in Springfield for any of your specialty gas operations, call ILMO Products Company at (217) 245-2183 or at info@ilmoproducts.com.

John Segura, PE

About the Author

John Segura is a licensed Professional Engineer and a well-rounded executive in the industrial gas world. He has over 30 years of experience covering sales, marketing and operations both domestic and international. Segura has led teams of engineers and technicians as an R & D manager for major gas companies. His work caused his eventual leadership of the marketing efforts of technology worldwide industrial gas suppliers. He still remains in the industry but now as a consultant on the business specializing in operations, applications and marketing.