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Money from the air

How xenon and krypton are extracted from "dirty" oxygen on Russian equipment in China

At the Jinan Iron and Steel Works (China), a rare gas separation plant of the PJSC "Cryogenmash" operates, allowing from the "dirty" oxygen remaining after the production of technical gases, to obtain rare types of gases that are in high demand on the market. EastRussia looked at how a waste product turns into gas, the cubic meter of which costs thousands of dollars.

Money from the air
Photo: Alla Galanova
In 2011, the Russian company Cryogenmash supplied a separation plant for the Krypton-Xenon concentrate (URRG) to the Jinan Iron and Steel Works, capable of reprocessing an hour before the 200 cubic meter of the oxygen mixture remaining from the production of technical gases. At the entrance to the URRG, the raw materials contain 0,269% of xenon and krypton, explains Vyacheslav Kuznetsov, head of the Cryogenmash representative office in China. In the installation "dirty oxygen, which was previously actually a waste product, is separated by the method of low-temperature rectification." Initially, radon and hydrocarbons are removed from the mixture formed in the safety flow of large cryogenic air separation plants. The mixture is then returned to the plant, where the resulting krypton-xenon concentrate in the form of liquid enters the separation plant. Further, pure gases are released through low-temperature rectification.

EastRussia Help. PJSC "Cryogenmash" is a member of the group of companies "United Machine-Building Plants" and is the largest producer of equipment for air separation and processing of associated gas, natural gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the country. The equipment "Cryogenmash" produces about 70% of annual production of technical gases in Russia. The company supplies cryogenic air separation plants in Egypt (Egypt), Bulgaria, North Korea, Hungary, India, Iran, Nigeria, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and other countries. One of the key markets for "Cryogenmash" is Chinese.

The Jinan plant produces 960 liters of xenon and 10 800 liters of krypton per day. The cost of the rare gases obtained is high, Sergey Khrustalev, general director of Cryogenmash, said: xenon can cost up to $ 8000 per cube, and oxygen - only $ 100-150 per thousand cubic meters. The global market for xenon and krypton is estimated at $ 160 million, with a small number of professional players on it.

Krypton is used in the manufacture of high-power lasers, and a mixture of krypton and fluorine is an oxidizer of rocket fuel and in combat lasers. Xenon has been widely used as a gas for incandescent lamps, gas-discharge light sources and automobile headlights. Radioactive isotopes of xenon are used as radiation sources in radiography, for detecting leakage in vacuum devices and for xenon anesthesia of patients. Xenon is also used for the production of lasers, in spacecraft engines. At the moment, there are no more than 20 installations in the world to produce these pure gases. And because of the rapid development of new technologies in the world industrial space, the need for high technologies, in cleaner noble gases, is growing rapidly. The development of electronic technologies involves the use of products such as isotopes of helium, neon, xenon, krypton. Therefore, in the future, the market for xenon and krypton consumption will only grow.

In China, the received gases are sold mainly in the domestic market - the national defense industry is increasingly demanding them. For export, it is about 10%. In 2012, the second URRG of the "Cryogenmash" production was put into operation - at the Handan factory. The degree of purification is so high that the purity of the rare gases obtained exceeds the most stringent requirements of Chinese standards. The production of krypton and xenon allows enterprises to compensate for the costs from the crisis of metallurgical production. According to the deputy director of the gas plant of the Jinan Metallurgical Plant, Li Zonghui, no spare parts were required from the delivery from Cryogenmash PJSC: the units delivered in 2011 year worked without any emergency stops and unforeseen situations.

Also, the company demonstrated that in metallurgical production not only "dirty oxygen" can be used for good. During the excursion, journalists were shown a pond on the territory of the plant where the fish is grown. "Heat from industrial needs enters the pond and heats the water.In winter it is cold, it helps to maintain the temperature.It is constantly circulating the water, it is cleaning, oxygenation .10 years ago, it began to breed fish in the territory, it comes to feed the plant's employees and sale, "- said Vyacheslav Kuznetsov.