Different Types of Air Separation Plant: Cryogenic Air Separation to Witness Highest Demand in the Global Market

With rapid industrialization and urbanization in the recent past, there has been a high demand for air separation plant. It separates atmospheric air into its primary components including nitrogen and oxygen, and often argon and other inert gases. The air separation plant produces pure and bulk oxygen and nitrogen for industrial application through rail tanker or cylinders. High demand of oxygen in coal gasification projects and steelmaking has been creating lucrative opportunities for global air separation plant market. It is further influenced by the requirement of nitrogen with low oxygen impurities to protect edible oil products and for inerting petroleum tanks and storage tanks of ships.

In addition, functional chemical and physical properties are making oxygen and nitrogen suitable for application across various industries which in turn aid in air separation plant market growth. They are majorly used in medical gases, fuel gases, refrigerant gases, and others. Further, demand for liquid nitrogen freezing has been increasing in food & beverage industry, owing to need for rapid refrigeration and gas packaging. Industrial shift towards the use of high-purity gases are likely to create innovation in the global air separation plant market.

Cryogenic Air Separation Plant

Cryogenic distillation process is used when larger amount of nitrogen and oxygen are required at the highest purity. Main applications include supply of oxygen in metal production and gasification. It is energy-intensive and requires a tight integration of heat exchangers. Typical procedure of the cryogenic air separation include filtration, removal of impurities, heat transfer, distillation process, and refrigeration. Before washing and cooling, the atmospheric air is filtered and compressed. It is then separated by fractional distillation at extremely cold temperature and by using both high and low pressure column. The separated products are delivered by pipeline for short distances. For long distance transportation, large quantities are shipped as liquid products while smaller quantities are supplied in gas cylinders or dewar flasks (used for storing cryogens).

Non-Cryogenic Air Separation Plant

Non-cryogenic air separation plant mainly incorporates two technologies such as pressure swing absorption (PSA) and membrane technology. In pressure swing absorption, either oxygen or nitrogen is separated from atmospheric air without liquefaction. In this process, compressed air is passed through a vessel containing absorbents at different atmospheric pressure. Desirable absorbent for non-cryogenic air separation plant shows greater affinity to non-product molecules than oxygen and nitrogen. Oxygen PSA vessels contain alumina with zeolite molecular sieve while the nitrogen vessels use activated carbon molecular sieve.

Membrane technology in air separation process is used for its cost effectiveness and lower consumption of energy. It uses polymeric membrane to produce oxygen-enriched air at warm temperature. On the other hand, high purity oxygen is produced with ceramic membrane at high temperature operation. Air separated from membrane technology has relatively low demand application.

According to market intelligence published by Future Market Insights, the demand for cryogenic air separation plants is estimated to be higher than the non-cryogenic process. Increasing demand for high purity gases in industrial activities is likely to drive the growth of global air separation plant market.

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About the Author

Nikhil Kaitwade

With over 8 years of experience in market research and consulting industry, Nikhil has worked on more than 250 research assignments pertaining to chemicals, materials and energy sector. He has worked directly with about 35 reputed companies as lead consultant for plant expansion, product positioning, capacity factor analysis, new market/segment exploration, export market opportunity evaluation and sourcing strategies.

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