Article Updated: May 2022
Being heavily involved in a company that uses industrial gases every day for processing, and hence having dealt with several industrial gas suppliers, I decided to put up this post. Choosing an industrial gas supplier is not as easy as choosing a shipping supplies vendor; there are so many of the latter and there is very little risk relatively speaking. Switching an industrial gas supplier solely based on price is not a good idea. Hence this post.
We had decided to get into the thin films coatings business, because our vendor had developed serious quality issues and delivery hiccups.
And one of the principal consumables in the chemical vapor deposition thin films business are the industrial gases. The consumable gases include hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, methane, hydrochloric acid, hydrogen sulfide and liquid titanium tetrachloride that is vaporized in situ.
And of course, we were on the hunt for a reliable industrial gases supplier. The key requirement that our company had was that we did not want to purchase from several different industrial gas suppliers; we wanted to deal with one source.
This somewhat complicated the issue because no one manufacturer makes all the gases. And from a distributor standpoint, some distributors do not want to deal with the heavily dangerous gases like hydrogen sulfide and that ruled them out.
We ended up with a wealth of experience in choosing the right industrial gases supplier and finally we ended up with one phenomenal vendor with whom we have stayed put for over two decades now. That firm is not the lowest from a price point, but while price is important, there are other factors to be considered also in this case.
So let us go through the checklist one by one.
Point One: Leak Free Gas Delivery.
One of the most important checklist points is Leak Free Gas Delivery. In the case of single cylinders such as Argon or Helium used in TIG or MIG welding or Acetylene used in gas welding, if the cylinder valve leaks, then you lose the contents of the cylinder. If the process is taking place in a well ventilated area or outdoors, then this loss of material is financially draining.
However, if the leaking cylinder is in a closed space, such as inside a workshop, then leaking cylinders can displace the oxygen in the room causing inhalation problems for the operators and may lead to asphyxiation and even death.
The problem of leaking gases is not only limited to cylinder valves. In our processing, we need six pack racks of hydrogen, due to the volume of gas needed to make every single coating run.
In this case, each of the six hydrogen cylinders is connected by way of braided hoses or brazed copper tubing on to a central supply tube which gets connected to the inlet of our process system. Note that these racks get transported by truck and may travel hundreds of miles from the filling center to our distribution location that is just a few miles away from our plant. This rattling of the racks may cause the hoses and braze joints to deteriorate, causing leaks.
These leaks not only lead to loss of material; they may affect subsequent processing too. For example, in our case, processing happens under partial pressure conditions. Meaning there is a huge vacuum pump that constantly maintains a low partial pressure, thereby causing a suction effect. This suction will cause a Venturi action, thereby aspirating air ( that contains oxygen ) into the hydrogen supply line. Presence of oxygen is detrimental to our processing; hence leaks, even pinhole leaks are not acceptable from the industrial gases supplier.
We had to literally insist that the industrial gases supplier must use a combustible gas detector on every single hydrogen rack supplied and reject if leaks were found. A supplier that refused that additional step from being performed could not get our business.
Point Two: Spec Gases Cylinder Markings
Many industrial gases, especially industrial specialty gases are produced and supplied with various levels of purity. Specifications of purity levels are based on the application where the specialty gas is being used. Super critical applications that cannot tolerate even small levels of impurities call for stringent purity levels such as Research Grade or Ultra High Purity, etc. These cover the impurity levels, moisture content, etc.
The same industrial gases supplier may carry the same gas under various purity levels. It is imperative that the cylinders be marked uniquely to differentiate the various spec levels. We did face this problem, wherein a Commercial Purity Methane Cylinder had the same marking as a Ultra High Purity Methane Cylinder: we ordered UHP and we ended up with Commercial Purity. Needless to say we made a bunch of bad parts and had to eat the processing cost.
Hence we insisted about unique markings to avoid such problems. If your industrial gases supplier refuses, you don’t need that firm.
Point Three: Cylinder Relief Valve Ratings
Some gas cylinders will have a relief valve to relieve the pressure once it goes beyond a certain limit. For example Nitrogen Dewars can come with a 22 psi relief valve for low pressure applications, a 230 psi relief valve for medium pressure applications and a 350 psi relief valve for high pressure applications.
It is imperative that you insist your industrial gas supplier will ensure proper relief valves are put in place. Ours is a medium pressure application. One of our early suppliers never checked the pressure settings and supplied a Nitrogen Dewar with a 350 psi high pressure relief valve. Needless to say, we blew the Automatic Changeover Manifold downstream: that was expensive.
Point Four: Overfilled / Underfilled Liquefied Spec Gases
This is a serious problem that can happen with liquefied specialty gases. For example, we get Research Grade Carbon Dioxide and Electronic Grade Anhydrous Hydrogen Chloride. Both these are compressed and liquefied in the cylinders. There is an equilibrium at the gas / liquid line and the gas is supposed to be delivered through regulators into the process system.
Of course, when the gas supplier underfills, there is an economic price to pay, namely you got less than what you paid for. But the problem is worse when it is overfilled. In our case, the industrial gas supplier overfilled the Carbon Dioxide cylinder, and liquid material got aspirated through the regulator and destroyed it. These regulators are not cheap; we lost $2,000 in replacing the regulator.
We insisted that the gas supplier must do a tare weight of the cylinder and supply only by recording the weight of the cylinder before and after fill. The industrial gas supplier must ensure that an accurate weight of gas is supplied: no overfilling or underfilling; if refused, do not choose that firm.
Point Five: Proper Seals on Cylinder fittings.
Seals on specialty gas cylinders are usually purchased from the same industrial gas supplier that sells gases. These are usually color coded and different materials can be used for different gases. These are cheap commodity items that sell for pennies. We purchase only the highest quality Teflon seals for all gases across the board.
Our gas supplier suddenly changed “his” supplier of the seals, who did not adhere to the color coding. We ended up with the incorrect seals; we developed leaks at the seal point. It took us eight hours to rectify the error.
You must insist that the source of seals cannot be changed. Again, this could cause significant headaches if not agreed upon upfront.
Point Six: Miscellaneous.
Here we will include all of the other miscellaneous points to be considered before finalizing on a supplier – customer relationship.
You must be ensured reliable on-time delivery. If gases are an important raw material for your processing, you need it when you need it; not two days later. If needed, the distributor or supplier must keep in inventory at least what is needed immediately in stock for your next delivery requirement and replenish immediately, to allow for reliable delivery.
Having reliable drivers and carrying sufficient insurance is important from a business stand point. The last thing you want to hear is that they are short on drivers and so cannot deliver on time.
And of course, price competitiveness is a given. If you cannot purchase at competitive prices, your margins will go down. When considering price, also take into consideration the cylinder rental charge, the delivery charges, hazmat charges and any other surcharges that apply.
Many of these charges fly under the radar. It is imperative that you consult with your accounts payable department and ensure that you are not getting overcharged or are billed for goods higher than what you had originally agreed upon. Remember, success is in paying attention to all the details.
The Next Steps:
If you are looking to purchase industrial gases as a customer or if you are an industrial gas supplier that is reputable and reliable and are interesting in increasing your customer base, you can benefit by signing up with FirstPageit.com for free!
Here is the brief step by step instructions.
Step 1: Click Sign-In, Create a New Account, Enter Your Details, Email, etc.
Step 2: If you SELL industrial gases, enter the Company Product and Services Screen, Choose Industrial Products and Materials, Gases/Chemicals/Wastes, Industrial Gases, choose a geographical radius in which you want to sell and choose a secondary email address. That’s it. You’re done !
Step 3: If you SELL something else, such as CNC Machines for example, enter the Company Product and Services Screen, Choose the appropriate category such as Industrial Products and Materials, Machining, Machines/Equipment, CNC Machines or other appropriate services you offer for the products your firm sells and choose a geographical radius in which you want to sell those and choose a secondary email address. That’s it. You’re done !
FP in Action: Anytime anyone searches for whatever you sell in the main search box and enters the details of the search, YOU – the supplier will get an email instantly. So if you sell CNC Machining services and someone searches for it, you will get notified. Similarly, if you are an Industrial Gases distributor, when someone searches for that, you will get notified.
So you can search for the appropriate product or service you need by searching in the search box AFTER registering.
Thus you can offer your services as well as buy products and services without spending money on ads, helping your sales team AND your purchasing team at once with one registration.
Your competitors may already be on FirstPageit.com garnering business quietly under the radar !
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