Is Nitrogen better than air?

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CountryBoy
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Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by CountryBoy »

Places in my area offer nitrogen for filling up tires.

If this is a repeat of this topic then by all means delete this, but if this is new to you check out

http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/ho ... ns/4302788

and tell me what you think.

I dunno....
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by pjstack »

I think the last paragraph of the link you posted says it all:

(QUOTE)
So, to answer your specific questions: With nitrogen, your tire pressures will remain more constant, saving you a small amount in fuel and tire-maintenance costs. There will be less moisture inside your tires, meaning less corrosion on your wheels. You will not be able to feel any difference in the ride or handling or braking, unless your tire pressures were seriously out of spec and changing to nitrogen brought them back to the proper numbers. (UNQUOTE)

I personally don't think the slight benefit is worth the cost.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by livesoft »

As a scientist who uses liquid nitrogen practically daily, my answer is No. Your tire pressure will not be more "constant" either. PV = nRT. Remember that? It doesn't matter whether you have air, oxygen, argon, helium, xenon, or nitrogen: the pressure change is the EXACT same for a given temperature change. So the first paragraph of the article is myth.
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Raymond
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by Raymond »

Maybe if you're landing the Space Shuttle or an airliner, but for a regular car, I'd only do it if it were free.

An interesting article:

"Is it better to fill your tires with nitrogen instead of air?" - The Straight Dope

It does work well for freezing benign and precancerous skin lesions, though 8-)
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by LadyGeek »

All aircraft are required to use Nitrogen in their tires. However, that's because the water vapor plays havoc with the tires due to changes in altitude and temperature.

I think you will benefit more by simply keeping the tires at the proper pressure; the gas type is secondary. What's the proper pressure? Check your owner's manual.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by c.Alvin »

My Toyota dealer adds nitrogen with the normal auto service. It does not cost me a penny more.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by JPH »

Costco also says they will keep your tires inflateed with nitrogen if you perchase from them.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by mike143 »

Modern day snake oil..............move along. I do have some magnetic bracelets that will solve all you aliments though.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by Stonebr »

mike143 wrote:Modern day snake oil..............move along. I do have some magnetic bracelets that will solve all you aliments though.
+1

I agree. Nitrogen is a worthless gimmick. Why clutter up your life with this stuff?
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topper1296
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by topper1296 »

If memory serves, Consumer Reports said it is worth filling up with nitrogen if you can get it for free, however it's not worth it if you have to pay for it.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by dickenjb »

Maybe the question should be, is filling your tires with nitrogen better than filling your tires with air.

For breathing, air is definitely better.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by nisiprius »

I like to keep my tires at 40 psi, which is 5 pounds above the door-sticker pressure, in the belief that a) it's OK, b) it might increase fuel economy. I always check 'em after the dealer rotates the tires, in case they didn't get or didn't follow my directions. So last year, after the last rotation I checked 'em and they were spot on. Several months later I was thinking "it's been a while," so I checked 'em again. Front tires, exactly 40 psi. Left rear, 30 psi. Right rear, 20 psi.

After some delicate queries at the dealer, they decided there was nothing wrong with the tires and installed four new valves at no charge. They haven't lost a pound since. What they weren't saying is that, I assume, someone damaged the valves during the tire rotation.

Anyway, here's what I'm leading up to. I consider myself a semi-responsible car owner. But obviously I was driving around for months with twenty pounds in my right rear tire. I don't think I was putting my life at risk, but...

... fill 'em up with nitrogen? C'mon, who would I be kidding? If I didn't notice a difference with a tire twenty pounds down, I wouldn't notice if the tires were filled with laughing gas. And I probably wasted more fuel in three months driving with an excessively low tire than I'd save over the rest of my lifetime using nitrogen.

I don't need nitrogen. What I need is to check my tires more often. And, human nature being what it is, anything that gets in the way of that--like having to make time and perhaps make an appointment for a special trip to the tire store with the nitrogen--is a bad thing.

I think the nitrogen thing must be some kind of race driver chic.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by cheese_breath »

Here's a little article on the subject.

http://www.tirerack.com/tires/tiretech/ ... 6698650813&

My take on it is use it if you can get it for free, but it's not worth paying for.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by FrugalInvestor »

cheese_breath wrote:Here's a little article on the subject.

http://www.tirerack.com/tires/tiretech/ ... 6698650813&

My take on it is use it if you can get it for free, but it's not worth paying for.
Yes, and the problem is that if you get it free it's typically not convenient to get more free and as a more practical matter tire pressures need to be adjusted very few weeks. So the possible miniscule practical benefit just typically isn't worth the cost or hassle.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by cheese_breath »

FrugalInvestor wrote:
cheese_breath wrote:Here's a little article on the subject.

http://www.tirerack.com/tires/tiretech/ ... 6698650813&

My take on it is use it if you can get it for free, but it's not worth paying for.
Yes, and the problem is that if you get it free it's typically not convenient to get more free and as a more practical matter tire pressures need to be adjusted very few weeks. So the possible miniscule practical benefit just typically isn't worth the cost or hassle.
Agreed. The only time I get it free is when I get a new set of tires. From then until the next set of new tires I just add air at the gas station.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by CaliJim »

I like using sweet air. N2O. :wink:
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by interplanetjanet »

I prefer SF6 - it doesn't leak through rubber at all, even thin bicycle inner tubes.

-janet
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by SSSS »

I use a special proprietary blend:

78% Nitrogen
21% Oxygen
1% Argon

And tiny amounts of Carbon Dioxide & some other secret ingredients.

It's very expensive to buy & mix all the ingredients, but it's totally worth it.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by CaliJim »

Janet!!!!

wiki: "SF6 is the most potent greenhouse gas that it has evaluated, with a global warming potential of 22,800[11] times that of CO2 when compared over a 100-year period."
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by Epsilon Delta »

interplanetjanet wrote:I prefer SF6 - it doesn't leak through rubber at all, even thin bicycle inner tubes.

-janet
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by interplanetjanet »

I guess this is what happens when I leave out a " :wink: ".

Edit: as an aside, while I think those greenhouse numbers may be reasonable for SF6 released in volcanic eruptions that can make it into the atmosphere proper, I think they may be off for room-temperature SF6 released at ground level - it's *heavy*, on the order of 5x the density of air, and tends to settle into a thin layer at ground level which then taken up by absorbtion or adsorbtion. That said, I don't know of a study that really addresses that, and intuition is so often wrong in science...

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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by gwrvmd »

Re: The SSSS post
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by JW-Retired »

Who can argue with using nitrogen if there is no cost. (1st) Filling with nitrogen makes the tire slightly lighter at the same pressure. Has to be good for gas milage. Might be in the 6th or 8th mpg decimal place, but it's in the right direction. (2nd) Excluding oxygen makes any oxidation of the rubber inside the tire impossible, if there is any. Why take the chance?

Maybe not to look silly?
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by nisiprius »

How about filling your tires with liquid nitrogen? There might be some issues, but nobody would complain about not being able to tell the difference from air.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by thedude »

livesoft wrote:As a scientist who uses liquid nitrogen practically daily, my answer is No. Your tire pressure will not be more "constant" either. PV = nRT. Remember that? It doesn't matter whether you have air, oxygen, argon, helium, xenon, or nitrogen: the pressure change is the EXACT same for a given temperature change. So the first paragraph of the article is myth.
Livesoft is correct. I was just about to post "PV = nRT, it doesn't matter if it's air or nitrogen."
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by Default User BR »

thedude wrote:Livesoft is correct. I was just about to post "PV = nRT, it doesn't matter if it's air or nitrogen."
Of course, that's the Ideal Gas Law, and real gases will vary somewhat. I would suspect that air, being largely N2, would probably behave very similarly to its major component.


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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by fixitnowlt11 »

As a mechanic of 17 years I do not see the advantage of nitrogen over air in tires. Think about how many times you or someone you know that has had to replace a tire, rim, or valve stem because of "bad air". No one right? Right.

If it is offered at no cost, you have nothing to lose. Go for it--if you want.

Another thing to consider is Nitrogen is inert. I know you "science types" will argue that. What I mean by inert is that it is nonflammable and does not support combustion--a major advantage over air in certain applications, conditions, or when accidents involving fire occur.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by thedude »

Default User BR wrote:
thedude wrote:Livesoft is correct. I was just about to post "PV = nRT, it doesn't matter if it's air or nitrogen."
Of course, that's the Ideal Gas Law, and real gases will vary somewhat. I would suspect that air, being largely N2, would probably behave very similarly to its major component.


Brian
Sure, you have to correct for VDW. The correction is not significant in this case.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by BigFoot48 »

Let's see, now have 45 years of owning cars and have yet to have a wheel fail due to interior corrosion from moisture in the air used to fill it.

Marketing gimmick. I would prefer to have them filled with Helium to make my car lighter and thus use less gasoline. It's the next big thing, I tell you!
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by bertilak »

My original take was that plain old air (much like ssss's proprietary mix :happy) was almost 80% nitrogen anyway, so what's the big deal?

Then I had it explained to me that it wasn't so much that nitrogen was good, but theat oxygen was bad -- it was like a built-in gas leak so your tire's pressure will have a tendency to go down faster than if it held 100% nitrogen.

THEN I had the thought that if it is only the oxygen that is leaking, you are steadily increasing the nitrogen percentage, even after a top-up of regular air. Pump N+O in and only let the O out. That's how to get your nitrogen for free!
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by smackboy1 »

The short answer is that nitrogen is better than ambient air for all the reasons stated. That is why race cars, aircraft, military etc. use nitrogen in their tires. However, IMHO for most street car applications, it's not worth paying for.

I think the biggest advantage of using nitrogen is that it is anhydrous (no water). Ambient air contains water vapor. The vapor pressure of the water can cause the gas in the tire to deviate from the ideal gas equation PV=nRT i.e. the pressure may not vary linearly with temps. For the street it's not that big a deal as long as you check your tire pressures regularly. But on the race track my tire temps can get up to 150-200 F which makes more of a difference. Once you switch to nitrogen to get the full benefits you have to continue using anhydrous gas otherwise if you introduce water vapor back into the tires it's all for nought.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by livesoft »

Air can be dried and thus made anhydrous. There are filters and molecular sieves that can produce fairly pure nitrogen from air, but just drying air is probably easier.

So why don't folks use carbon tetrafluoride (aka tetrafluoromethane aka CF4 aka Freon-14) instead? The molecule is larger than N2 and thus would not leak as much and is essentially inert.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by bertilak »

livesoft wrote:So why don't folks use carbon tetrafluoride (aka tetrafluoromethane aka CF14) instead? The molecule is larger than N2 and thus would not leak as much and is essentially inert.
It's probably easier (aka cheaper) for auto shops to extract N from air than it is to get CF14.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by Jack »

bertilak wrote:THEN I had the thought that if it is only the oxygen that is leaking, you are steadily increasing the nitrogen percentage, even after a top-up of regular air. Pump N+O in and only let the O out. That's how to get your nitrogen for free!
Sort of like making highly enriched U235 except you have to drive really, really fast.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by arkerr123 »

It will not make a difference. Air is 78% nitrogen.

Some marketing dept. realized it would be extremely inexpensive to fill it with just nitrogen, and realized they could charge for it. Now its standard.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by CountryBoy »

Many thanks for people's thoughts on this issue.....
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by jaia »

SSSS wrote:I use a special proprietary blend:

78% Nitrogen
21% Oxygen
1% Argon

And tiny amounts of Carbon Dioxide & some other secret ingredients.

It's very expensive to buy & mix all the ingredients, but it's totally worth it.
Good one.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by Epsilon Delta »

interplanetjanet wrote:I guess this is what happens when I leave out a " :wink: ".
Do you really think that would have made a difference? :twisted:
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by NHRATA01 »

As someone who deals with high purity gases such as nitrogen, and who occasionally auto races, in short for the average car, no. For road course auto racing it has it's benefits as the pressure changes are more stable when the tire heats up.

If a place does it for free as a courtesy, sure, no harm no foul. For extra money though, not worth it.

I also laugh at Shell's new pitch of "Nitrogen enhanced" gasoline. Because the a few ppm of N2 in the gasoline will make a difference when the cylinder is already going to be 78% N2 from the incoming air. :oops:
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by TJSI »

ssss, have you back tested that mix?
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by texasdiver »

Remember, they don't vacuum the air out of your tires before inflating. Car tires are semi-rigid and will already be full of ambient air before they begin to inflate them. So strictly speaking all they are really doing is "topping off" your tires with nitrogen, not filling them with nitrogen.

The real reason why racing teams use nitrogen is because it is perfectly dry. It is the water vapor in ordinary air that causes pressure to fluctuate as the temperature goes up and down because it will transition between gas and liquid phases. As has already been pointed out, the other gases in air (nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and argon for the most part) will all behave according to the ideal gas laws.

Air compressors can also be fitted with moisture separators. Industrial uses for compressed air such as spray painting and driving tools use water separators because moisture in the lines will affect paint application and cause air tools to corrode. So a fill station at a tire shop can easily obtain perfectly dry air. However it is simply easier for racing teams to wheel a few nitrogen tanks into the pits rather than mess with setting up an air compressor and filling their own tanks on the spot. Nitrogen tanks are cheap and easy to obtain. Might as well use them. Racing teams will also do things like set the outside tires on a car at a slightly higher pressure than the inside tires because they are going around a loop in one direction at very high speeds. So they care much more about fine tuning tire pressures and having them remain stable at super high speeds than an ordinary driver.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by pkcrafter »

Is Nitrogen better than air?

Not for breathing, no. :shock:

For tires, helium is the thing. Get big enough tires and you can practically float the car! Less road friction = better mileage. :wink:


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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by NHRATA01 »

pkcrafter wrote:Is Nitrogen better than air?

Not for breathing, no. :shock:

For tires, helium is the thing. Get big enough tires and you can practically float the car! Less road friction = better mileage. :wink:


Paul
:mrgreen:

Though it would be hard to keep helium in a porous rubber tire, it is the 2nd smallest molecule out there...though filling your tires with the smallest might be interesting too.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by hicabob »

NHRATA01 wrote:
pkcrafter wrote:Is Nitrogen better than air?

Not for breathing, no. :shock:

For tires, helium is the thing. Get big enough tires and you can practically float the car! Less road friction = better mileage. :wink:


Paul
:mrgreen:

Though it would be hard to keep helium in a porous rubber tire, it is the 2nd smallest molecule out there...though filling your tires with the smallest might be interesting too.

Helium is quite expensive! I paid about $500 for 2 tanks full to fill up a 10 foot balloon a few months ago. In fact there is a helium shortage at the moment. Filling a large balloon up with helium inside the car would be better for gas mileage than just filling the tires :happy
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by Mudpuppy »

hicabob wrote:Helium is quite expensive! I paid about $500 for 2 tanks full to fill up a 10 foot balloon a few months ago. In fact there is a helium shortage at the moment. Filling a large balloon up with helium inside the car would be better for gas mileage than just filling the tires :happy
The helium shortage is interesting. Locally, you now see shops with big signs in their windows whenever they have helium in stock (and much smaller signs when they're out of stock). Even the grocery stores now have signs on the door giving the status of their helium inventory. It's a whole new marketing ploy, springing up in reaction to a new supply and demand problem.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by MOBY DICK »

1. The HELIUM shortage is real. Helium comes from the reaction at the earth's core that turns hydrogen into helium. It surfaces in Methane ( aka natural gas) streams. The extremely mild winter and discovery of methane in old coal beds (fracking) has necessitated LESS pumping of the streams that contained the helium... thus the shortage.
2. The only time to use LIQUID NITROGEN w/tires is when they've exceeded their life and LN2 is applied as a method of shredding the rubber to re-cycle it.
3. Nitrogen is probably quite useful to Bogleheads as keepers of vehicles far longer than most as it eliminates the corrosion at the bead which is the source of most slow leaking tires! The moisture in old air compressors causes this corrosion.
4. Any tire shop that doesn't have Nitrogen for your tires s/b passed on as it's methods may be outdated.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by mike143 »

MOBY DICK wrote: 3. Nitrogen is probably quite useful to Bogleheads as keepers of vehicles far longer than most as it eliminates the corrosion at the bead which is the source of most slow leaking tires! The moisture in old air compressors causes this corrosion.
4. Any tire shop that doesn't have Nitrogen for your tires s/b passed on as it's methods may be outdated.
Tire shops do not implement air dryers on their compressors because the minimal amount of moisture introduced during the compression and condensation of air is not a problem. I would stay far far away from any shop promoting nitrogen fill in tires. Next they are going to tell you your blinker fluid is low.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by hicabob »

MOBY DICK wrote:1. The HELIUM shortage is real. Helium comes from the reaction at the earth's core that turns hydrogen into helium. It surfaces in Methane ( aka natural gas) streams. The extremely mild winter and discovery of methane in old coal beds (fracking) has necessitated LESS pumping of the streams that contained the helium... thus the shortage.
2. The only time to use LIQUID NITROGEN w/tires is when they've exceeded their life and LN2 is applied as a method of shredding the rubber to re-cycle it.
3. Nitrogen is probably quite useful to Bogleheads as keepers of vehicles far longer than most as it eliminates the corrosion at the bead which is the source of most slow leaking tires! The moisture in old air compressors causes this corrosion.
4. Any tire shop that doesn't have Nitrogen for your tires s/b passed on as it's methods may be outdated.

So fusion is going on in the earth's core? Another explanation for global warming!

But seriously ... from wiki of course

"On Earth it is thus relatively rare—0.00052% by volume in the atmosphere. Most terrestrial helium present today is created by the natural radioactive decay of heavy radioactive elements (thorium and uranium), as the alpha particles emitted by such decays consist of helium-4 nuclei. This radiogenic helium is trapped with natural gas in concentrations up to 7% by volume, from which it is extracted commercially by a low-temperature separation process called fractional distillation."

but the concept of fracked methane having less helium than the old school methane would certainly 'splain the shortage.
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Re: Is Nitrogen better than air?

Post by NHRATA01 »

MOBY DICK wrote:1. The HELIUM shortage is real. Helium comes from the reaction at the earth's core that turns hydrogen into helium. It surfaces in Methane ( aka natural gas) streams. The extremely mild winter and discovery of methane in old coal beds (fracking) has necessitated LESS pumping of the streams that contained the helium... thus the shortage.
Due to my job, I am knee deep in the helium shortage issue. Actually every industrial user is pretty much on a 50% supply allocation which is making my life rather difficult at the moment as we are a major user.

The main issue is that by order of Congress, the Bureau of Land Management was ordered to sell off the government stocks of helium to private industry by 2015. So the BLM has been doing this for several years now, and as a result is selling at below market prices. The other issue is the BLM sources have basically "peaked" and production from them is rapidly decreasing. There are new wells coming online, but they are in, how shall we say, more challenging areas of the globe for natural resources - Russia, Qatar, North Africa, China. Now due to my point on the former issue, because market prices were so low, it was not cost-competitive for the energy companies to segregate the helium recovered from natural gas wells. The result is that the US supplies are dwindling, and there is not sufficient volume yet abroad to make up the difference. It's going to be a real challenge for uses where no alternatives exist, such as semiconductors, medical use, and laboratory use. It is also the only element that can achieve escape velocity, so basically once it is released into the atmosphere, it migrates into outer space.

Interesting tidbit - as the US was for many years the world's supplier of helium, during the 30s they banned the export to Nazi Germany, which lead them to using Hydrogen instead.
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