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An air separation unit is designed to produce industrial gases: oxygen, nitrogen, argon, and, in large ASUs, rare gases (krypton, xenon, neon, helium).

Oxygen was the first of the air separation products to be used commercially. It was the need for oxygen which prompted the development of air separation technologies. All the subsequent applications can be divided into two categories: oxygen which is used to intensify combustion in the steel industry and oxygen which is used as an oxidizer in chemical processes.

Nitrogen is used as an individual component in chemical reactions (production of ammonia, fertilizers, etc.), in downstream processes (nitriding of metal surfaces), and as an auxiliary component in the primary process. In the latter case, nitrogen acts not as a raw material but as a kind of "a tool", mostly to form a blanketing atmosphere. Nitrogen as an inert medium is used in the melting of special steels and alloys, in refinery, glass industry, etc.

In some cases liquid nitrogen is used rather than gas nitrogen, an example being deburring during metalworking. In this instance, liquid nitrogen serves as a cold source for metalworking (the temperature of liquid nitrogen is approx. - 190 0С). Also, due to its inert property, nitrogen is used as a cooling agent in chemical reactions.

Argon is used as a component of shield gases due to its inert characteristics. Argon is used in the fabrication of machinery equipment and during construction works, for example, argon arc welding and thermal metal cutting in a shielding gas atmosphere. Traditionally argon has been used in the electronics industry and in instrument making (filling glow lamps and gas-discharge lamps, assembling critical instrumentation units). A considerable amount of argon is used in the melting and the hot working of metals and alloys.

Technical gases are applied in the following industries:

  • Machine building
  • Metalwork
  • Steel industry
  • Chemical industry
  • Oil and gas production
  • Refinery
  • Glass industry
  • Electronics and instrument making
  • Power industry
  • Food industry
  • Medical industry

The following industries are the main users of industrial gases: