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St. Patrick’s Day Is A Gas

Friday, March 16th, 2012

St. Patrick’s Day is a good day for the gas industry. Across the world, massive amounts of CO2 and nitrogen will be consumed as thirsty citizens celebrate the day. According to National Geographic, more than 4.2 billion pints of beer will be consumed on this single day—that’s about 1 percent of the annual consumption total.

Just how much gas will be consumed? Different beers have different amounts of CO2. Brewers speak in terms of volumes of CO2, where 1 volume of CO2 is the equivalent of 1 gallon of CO2 at 1 atmosphere in 1 gallon of fluid. The typical beer has anywhere from 1½ volumes CO2 for a typical British-style ale to up to 5 volumes for a wheat beer. So if we take 4.2 billion pints of beer on St. Patrick’s Day…that’s about 528 million gallons of beer—considering an average of 2.5 volumes of CO2…that’s more than 1.3 billion volumes of CO2—in other words, a lot of gas. (If you are interested in converting this to other measurements, the previous link contains some useful calculations).

Of course, not all of the gas consumed is carbon dioxide. Nitrogen makes up a large part of the gas mix used in beers like Guinness. (Something tells me that nitrogen use is somewhat higher than normal on St. Patrick’s Day.) How many pints of Guinness will be consumed on St. Patrick’s Day? See for yourself:

(Source: guysgab.com)

13 million pints, enough to fill the 60% of the Empire State Building. That’s a lot of nitrogen. Believe it or not, Guinness has a connection to the Gases and Welding Distributors Association. As I wrote about last St. Patrick’s Day, GAWDA member McDantim was responsible for developing a custom gas blender for Guinness & Co. back in 1986.

When it comes to beverage gases, do you see an increase in sales around St. Patrick’s Day? How do you prepare for the addtional demand?

The Truth About CO₂ In Your New Year’s Champagne

Friday, December 30th, 2011

Rose Champagne
When it comes to New Year’s celebrations, champagne is a staple. But the bubbly would not be so bubbly if not for carbon dioxide.

But wait just a minute, gas industry, before boasting at your New Year’s Eve gatherings. The CO2 in traditional champagne is naturally occurring. The original sparkling wine (champagne is simply sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France) was discovered accidentally when wine was put through a second fermentation process, with CO2 as a byproduct of yeast and the sugar in wine.

Of course, that’s the traditional method. Today, less expensive champagnes typically use gas injection methods similar to carbonating soft drinks. Now, gas industry, is your turn to take the credit. However, using this method results in larger bubbles that dissipate quickly, so traditionalists still insist on making sparkling the old-fashioned way. Believe it or not, using gas injection for sparkling wine is actually prohibited in Europe!

Since the traditional “méthod Champenoise” requires yeast, it also requires the removal of the yeast sediment after the fermentation is complete, called disgorging. Through a lengthy process of riddling, either manual or automated, the yeast is brought to the neck of the bottle. Many sparkling wine makers then dip the neck of the bottle in liquid nitrogen to flash freeze the yeast before quickly uncorking (the carbonation causes the yeast to shoot out) and recorking. Other methods can be used as well, from propylene glycol to an ice bath, although I’ve come across one sparkling winemaker that uses a mixture including dry ice.

So even if you are drinking authentic champagne this New Year’s Eve, there’s still a good chance the gas industry had something to do with it. But if your host didn’t spring for the expensive stuff, you may have the gas industry to thank. Either way, you can always impress the guests by explaining why carbon dioxide causes champagne to shoot out of the bottle. Check out the video below to learn about the science of CO2 in sparkling wine—and how to pour it properly for maximum CO2 retention.

Have a happy new year and a safe New Year’s Eve!

Gases And Welding Take The Mound

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Gases and welding made a mark on America’s Favorite Pastime this week. On Wednesday, April 20, a robot threw out the first pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies using a burst of carbon dioxide gas. The robot, named PhillieBot, was built by students at the University of Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately, the ball fell short of home plate—and was subsequently received with jeers from the crowd. Certainly, this was not gases at its finest, but it was still a historical moment of sorts. Many firsts—be it inventions, businesses or what have you—end in failure. Hopefully the PhillieBot will be retooled and invited back next year to show the full potential of gases (I’m expecting a 100 mph fastball). If nothing else, it drew some attention to the gases industry. Check out the video below.

Robots themselves are becoming an important part of the gases and welding industry. Many manufacturers are turning to robotic welding automation. According to “The Future Of Welding In Manufacturing,” about 14 percent of nonautomotive manufacturers have implemented robotic automation, and that number is growing fast. The author, Brian Doyle, explains that some workers are concerned that they will be replaced by robots, but the truth is that even robots need human expertise and guidance. Major League pitchers need not fear for their jobs—yet.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, GAWDA Style

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Guinness's nitrogen widgetBeing that today is St. Patrick’s Day, and with a last name like O’Toole, I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge the holiday. After all, gases play a very important part in the merriment of many an Irish-for-a-day. I’m talking about Guinness, of course, the beer famous for its thick, foamy head.

While it’s well known that many beers use carbon dioxide, Guinness is somewhat unique in its use of nitrogen gas. If you’ve ever had Guinness in a can, you may have wondered what that little plastic ball was in the can. It’s a widget specially designed to release nitrogen when the can is opened in order to help re-create that signature foamy head (Guinness is actually the original inventor of widget).

Guinness uses nitrogen to achieve it's signature foamLast year, we wrote about GAWDA member McDantim, who developed a custom gas blender for Guinness & Co. back in 1986. “At the time, most beers were dispensed using CO2,” says McDantim President Dan Fallon. “But Guinness uses a combination of CO2 and nitrogen because nitrogen is dissolved into the beer to give it a unique consistency and to give the foam its whipped-cream quality.” So there you have it, the secret to Guinness’ perfect foam.

You can check out the whole story on page 26 of the Winter 2010 issue of Welding & Gases Today. And then go out and celebrate St. Patrick’s day GAWDA style, with a little nitrogen and CO2.

Can Welding & Gases Solve the BP Oil Spill?

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Can Welding & Gases Provide a Solution for BP?We’re now about 79 days into the BP oil spill disaster in the gulf coast, and still no comprehensive solution has been developed to deal with the mess. The cleanup has gases and welding written all over it and many people are drawing on the industry for solutions. Ideas are pouring in, but is BP really listening?

An article in the Seattle Times reports that 120,000 ideas have been submitted to BP. Somewhere around 425 ideas in total have gone to testing. Most ideas, says Michael Cortez, a petroleum engineer at BP, are downright impossible or impractical.

The main task BP faces is cleaning up the oil that has spilled. The other large task is securing the leaking pipelines.

GAWDAwiki recently reported that GAWDA member WESCO is testing the use of carbon dioxide to make the oil easier to pick up. According to WESCO Executive Vice President Paul Dutruch, “Our goal is to make the cleanup easier. The easier it is, the faster things will return to normal.”

Welding & Gases Today reader Ray Stone expressed frustration at being stonewalled by BP and the Coast Guard when trying to put in his two cents. His idea is to “spray liquid nitrogen on the front edge of spill.” He added a request to pass the idea along to “people who care about cleanup, not their bottom lines.”

In a Walton Sun editorial, former physics professor Dr. Ernest Zebrowski suggests using liquid helium to temporarily halt the flow of leaking oil long enough to pump in conventional concrete plug. After waiting several weeks with no response, Zebrowski turned to the Sun in hopes of finding an open ear.

The echoing sentiment seems to be: let’s work together to get this thing cleaned up and not worry about making money. BP is understandably wary about signing any agreements, so maybe it should think about taking advantage of the goodwill out there.

Whether it’s welding booms and stopgap structures or using liquid nitrogen or CO2, there just might be an answer out there to tackle the disaster at hand. But for every innovative thinker, the question remains: who is listening?