Oxygen is valued, above all, for its reactivity. Oxygen enrichment of air is used to increase the amount of
oxygen available for combustion or biological activity. Biological
activity enhancement includes medical applications and environmental
applications such as industrial waste water and sanitary sewage treatment
Oxygen enrichment of
air in industrial processes increases
reaction rates, which may permit greater throughput in existing equipment
or the ability to reduce the physical size of equivalent capacity new equipment.
Another benefit of oxygen
versus use of plain air is energy savings and due to a reduction in the amount of nitrogen and other
gases passing through a furnace or through a chemical process.
Reducing inert gases which would otherwise have to be compressed or
heated, can reduce energy consumption due to a decrease in gas compression
requirements or a reduction in the amount of fuel required to make a given
amount of product. Reducing the amount of hot gases vented to the
atmosphere from combustion processes may also decrease the size and
cleanup costs associated with stack gas cleanup systems.
Oxygen’s reactivity is commonly used in metals
processing (steel, copper, lead, zinc), glass furnaces, cement kilns,
chemical manufacture, sewage treatment, pulp and paper manufacture,
welding and cutting of metals, and medical oxygen.
methane (CH4), and carbon monoxide (CO):
These gases react with oxygen and other
materials in combustion processes and in various chemical production
processes. These gases are often produced for use as raw materials for
chemical manufacturing processes.
is used in refineries to remove sulfur and to chemically restructure
(reform) hydrocarbons. It is used to hydrogenate unstable,
unsaturated hydrocarbons and fatty acids in animal and vegetable oils.
It is also used as a reducing agent in steel and zinc manufacture –
removing oxygen that would react with and degrade the product.
Methane (CH4): Methane is
naturally produced by biological activity. It is the primary component of “natural
gas”, which is used as both a fuel and as a chemical raw material.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is co-produced with hydrogen by steam reforming plants
using methane or other hydrocarbons as feedstock. It is a raw material
for making monomers and other chemical products.
does not react with oxygen, but will combine with other elements and
compounds. Thus its commercial uses include raw material for various
chemical processes and as a neutralizing agent for alkaline materials.