Nitrogen supplier to St. Louis

Nitrogen, a chemically inert gas that is colorless and odorless, is the most common element in our Earth’s atmosphere, representing roughly 78% of the air we breathe in St. Louis. While we consider nitrogen inert, it is vital for most plants’ process to take up water, minerals and nutrients from soil, as well as supplying our world with an effective ultraviolet and radiation filter.

Practically all commercial nitrogen is produced by liquefying air and distilling it into its major components: nitrogen (78%), oxygen (21%) and argon (0.9%). While the technical ability to liquefy air has been known to us for over 140 years, making use of this advancement for years proved elusive. First believed to be an efficient means to produce industrial scale cooling, the capital and operating costs in air liquefaction proved to be a major barrier to commercial use for this application. The development of the oxy-acetylene torch soon produced a growing market for oxygen, but how could nitrogen be used?

It turns out a market was developing. For most of the nineteenth century, agriculture across the Atlantic was getting increasingly dependent on guano imports from South America. This guano was rich in nutrients to augment the depleted soils of the farm regions of Europe. But the expense to mine, transport and store it increased as more readily accessible materials were depleted. It was known that most of the guano was urea-based, and a German chemist, Friedrich Wöhler had synthesized urea from ammonia salts in 1828. However, to make the process commercially viable, ammonia had to be cost-effectively synthesized.

Early in the twentieth century, another German chemist, Fritz Haber, determined mixing hydrogen and nitrogen with an osmium catalyst produced ammonia efficiently, the higher the purity of the starting nitrogen and hydrogen, the better the yield. Further rapid innovations in high pressure reactor design and efficient iron-based catalysts enabled the first commercial ammonia production at BASF in Germany in 1913. Once this plant came on stream, new businesses developed quickly, including fertilizers, diazo dies and an entire organic chemicals industry. Thus, almost overnight a market was created for the “waste gas” produced from atmospheric air production, and the industrial gas business hit its initial growth spurt,

Today, nitrogen finds use in many commercial applications, including: chemical processing, concrete cooling, construction, metal production and fabrication, and many other miscellaneous uses. Ultra high purity and ultra carrier nitrogen are used as blanketing agents in chemical and pharmaceutical processing, and generally used as carrier gases in both gas and liquid chromatography.

The specialty gas experts at Cee Kay Supply, Inc. have the experience to help identify the nitrogen product St. Louis customers need. Give our team a call at 314.644.3500 or use this online form to contact us.