From food and wine to heavy industry: the many applications of nitrogen air separation technology

Atlas Copco’s nitrogen air separation technology has many applications, and one area where it can play a significant role is in South Africa’s wine industry.

“A large portion of South Africa’s wines are exported to international markets. In order to preserve the purity of the product, it has to be packaged in a specific manner. Nitrogen occurs in the atmosphere as a natural gas and can be used to replace oxygen in the packaging process. The presence of too much oxygen has a detrimental effect on food and beverages. By using Atlas Copco’s nitrogen packaging technology, we are able to offer our customers the peace of mind that the product that they are purchasing will be of the highest quality,” says Louwrens Erasmus, managing director of Rand-Air.

“In fact, with nitrogen packaging technology, we can guarantee purity levels of up to 99,5%,” he says.

But there are many other applications for this technology outside of the food and beverage industry, according to Louwrens. “The replacement of oxygen with nitrogen will prevent oxidation and the rusting in metals, polymers and chemicals. In fact, the absence of oxygen is a key component in the metal annealing process,” he points out.

In the high-pressure environment of the chemicals industry, accidents can happen at any time and safety is a significant priority. The industry is characterised by the use of products which can be highly combustible. Oxygen is a fire accelerant and the replacement of oxygen with nitrogen can be used in the effective prevention of fires, which offers significant safety benefits to the chemicals industry.

In the mining and industrial sectors, the use of nitrogen has significant advantages. An example of this is filling the tyres of heavy-duty construction and transport vehicles with nitrogen - as opposed to oxygen - which can significantly reduce costs and promote longer tread life.

“These are just some examples of how our highly versatile nitrogen air separation technology can work in a very wide variety of industry sectors,” Louwrens concludes.

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