Filling tyres with nitrogen is not a new concept – but how the gas is supplied to maintain heavy goods vehicles used in construction is becoming a lot more technology-focused. So says David Cheeseman, Chief Engineer of OxairGas Systems, a leading global supplier of on-site gas generating equipment.
Motor racing teams, commercial airlines and NASA have used nitrogen in tyres for years because it maintains tyre pressure longer than compressed air, resists heat build-up and reduces the potential of freezing at high altitudes, making them safer for operators and site staff alike.
As the construction industry presses ahead to reduce carbon emissions and boost safety in civil and building engineering projects, there has been greater attention to maintaining tyre pressure levels as a key to maximising fuel economy and tyre life.
Trucks transport materials thousands of miles back and forth to quarries and construction sites,often operating in harsh environments and extremes of temperatures. Unlike compressed air, nitrogen is an inert gas that does not react with other materials, so it is resistant to corrosion and therefore provides an extra tier of protection where critical applications are involved.
Fleet managers are aware it’s imperative that tyres are fully inflated to reduce the risk of critical air leaks and rapid deflation when vehicles are under pressure. But being at the mercy of the supply chain for bottled nitrogen, especially in extreme locations where conditions are challenging, is costly.
Nitrogen can be difficult to transport, not to mention the additional carbon footprint of delivery vehicles and safety risks for staff manually moving cylinders from one place to another, especially with the current threat of cross-contamination posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Companies will stock cylinders of nitrogen as emergency back-up to meet specific needs. However, they can avoid the hassle of having to outsource conventional cannisters by switching to an on-tap supply through a nitrogen generator. A nitrogen generator on site provides an alternative choice to manhandling canisters for heavy-duty equipment where precise or constant pressure is vital.
Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) generators offer high purity nitrogen from 1 to 10,000 SM3/ per hour. They can produce inert gas at low pressure removing the safety hazards associated with pressure gas cylinders. Oxair’s standard models produce from the air flow rates of nitrogen of up to 99.9% purity.
Nitrogen generators are efficient and compact, offering a continuous flow of gas extracted from the atmosphere. They are also an environmentally friendlier method of delivery as they reduce the carbon footprint associated with having cylinders transported from an off-site facility and then the return journey when they are empty.
Cheap to run and once installed requiring minimum maintenance, nitrogen plants are built to last and are operator friendly, making them crucial where tyres need to perform well in a remote location or challenging environment.
As with all high-quality engineering solutions, nitrogen generators can be tailored exactly to suit a construction company’s requirements. They offer low energy consumption, while a supplier should be able to provide on-site training to enable local employees to properly calibrate and easily maintain the system once it is operational, as well as full ongoing maintenance support.
On-site generators provide earth-moving operations with a turn-key solution for getting a constant, reliable source of high-quality nitrogen where it is needed. With practices geared up for long-term sustainability, investments in quality equipment will be key to achieving both safety and sustainability goals across multiple industry sectors.