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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?

How Nitrogen Saved A Snowboarder’s Life

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Winter starts early and ends late here in New York. Many people take advantage of long winters by snowboarding and skiing. Now nitrogen is making it possible for winter athletes to enjoy their outdoor activities more safely.

The latest innovation from The North Face uses nitrogen gas to potentially save lives. It’s a safety vest and backpack for skiers, snowboarders and other winter sports enthusiasts. The pack houses a canister of nitrogen that, when triggered, inflates two large airbags. In the case of an avalanche, the nitrogen-filled airbags will help bring the wearer to the surface. Professional snowboarder Xavier de Le Rue, who represented France in the 2010 Winter Olympics, says the airbag system saved his life a few years back when he was caught in an avalanche. The pack is still almost a year away for retail, but it’s a great use of gases (nitrogen in this case) to save lives. Check out the vest in action in the video below.

Of course, gases play an important role for mountain climbers. Earlier this year, Air Liquide’s Christopher Guest spoke about his journey to the top of Mt. Everest. He shared his story with Welding & Gases Today in “Outlasting Everest.” In the article, he explains how vital oxygen is to survival on Everest—and how he was almost without the life-saving gas on two occasions due to equipment and other climbers.

Mountains can be potentially dangerous for climbers, skiers and snowboarders. Thankfully there are gases to help keep them safe. Beyond safety, welding and gases played a significant role in the most recent winter olympics, from the olympic torch to making snow. Learn about the connection between the industry and the olympics in “Welding And Gases In The Games.”

Can you tell it snowed here yesterday? Click below to watch the video:

The Incredible Gas-Powered Pumpkins

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

It’s that time of year again. Fall is in full blossom, and that means it’s time to witness pumpkins flying a mile through the air thanks to compressed nitrogen.

The annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin contest took place earlier this month in Delaware. While some of the competitors insist on using catapult-style trebuchets to launch their pumpkins, some of the more adventurous entrants compete in the air cannon contest, where pumpkin launches go more than 4,000 feet on the power of compressed air and gases. I heard about the contest last year from GAWDA President Bryan Keen, who says that nitrogen is one of the gases used.

The contest follows strict safety standards, with air vessels required to be inspected, hydrostatically tested, and built to ASME codes. In the video below, watch one of the teams weld their air cannon together. They use a custom butterfly valve to get the maximum distance.

Also, after you finish your pumpkin pie, tune into the Discovery Channel or the Science Channel on Thanksgiving at 8 p.m. to watch the Punkin Chunkin contest in action. I won’t spoil the results, but watch to see if anyone can top the current record distance of 4483.51 feet (That’s about .85 miles).

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.

Casual Friday: Compressed Gas Pumpkin Cannon

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Punkin' Chunkin' Air CannonWe’re two days away from Halloween. Unless you have small children or an insatiable love for chocolate, you probably don’t get as excited about Halloween as you did when you were younger. Well, get excited again, because everyone knows that compressed gases and pumpkins go hand-in-hand. OK, so most people don’t immediately make that connection, but it’s true.

Behold the Punkin’ Chunkin’ contest, where competitors try to launch pumpkins as far as possible. The secret to defying gravity is by using compressed gases like nitrogen. We were turned onto the contest by GAWDA President-Elect Bryan Keen. He told us about a customer who used compressed nitrogen for the pumpkin launching contest. In the competition, teams use giant cannons powered by nothing but air, and the results are stunning.

In 2008, one team set the Punkin’ Chunkin’ record by launching a pumpkin 4483.51 feet using compressed gas. That’s about .85 miles. Not bad at all. This year’s contest runs Nov 5-7, and will air on the Science Channel on Thanksgiving. Here’s a little preview of what you might see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpfGGWK46pc

Wine On Tap? Now That’s A Niche Market

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Wine On Tap. Photo courtesy of xiaming.I’m currently working on the next issue of Welding & Gases Today, and one of the topics explored in this issue is niche markets for gases and welding distributors. Yesterday I came across one such niche via NPR—wine on tap—and I must say the concept is fascinating.

Restaurants and wine bars are increasingly offering wine on tap, with a little help from gases like nitrogen and argon. The use of inert gas pushes the wine from keg to tap without reacting with the wine. In fact, the gas helps preserves the wine longer than a typical bottle might at a restaurant.

While the concept of keg wine has been around for a long time, there is a renewed fervor for the beverage due to it being environmentally—and economically—friendly. It costs less than wholesale bottled wine and the containers are reusable. However, one proponent of wine on tap told NPR there are still some kinks to work out. Hear that? Sounds like opportunity to me! Welding and gases distributors specialize in solutions.

An underserved niche is a great way to expand into new markets. What niches does your company serve? How did you discover them? I’d love to hear about it.

Read about wine on tap or listen to the story below: