Town of Beloit plant makes gases used in everyday life

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Gina Duwe
Wednesday, September 25, 2013

TOWN OF BELOIT--The gases that make the soda you drink fizzy and the chicken you buy at the grocery store frozen could be coming from an industrial gas plant in the town of Beloit.

“Most people are not aware how much industrial gases do play in their day-to-day lives,” said Carolyn Blaylock, the Rock River Area Manager for Linde North America.

It's everything from the oxygen breathed in hospitals, the helium for the Macy's parade balloons to MRI magnets, she said.

From the town of Beloit plant, gases are shipped to hospitals, food freezers, science labs and chemical companies, she said.

“You name it, and industrial gas is used everywhere,” she said.

Two storage tanks outside the Linde Rock River Area Air Separation Unit plant on South Walters Road contain liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen. The tanks store 225,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and 748,000 gallons of liquid nitrogen, both about five to six days worth of production.

The Linde Group, a worldwide gases and engineering company with 62,000 employees in more than 100 countries, opened the Beloit plant in 2008. It has 36 employees. Its North American headquarters are in New Jersey.

“Linde selected the Beloit area as it enabled us to better serve our customers in the state, its excellent infrastructure and access to utilities such as power,” Amy Ficon, marketing communications manager for Linde North America, said in a email. “The other important factors were the presence of a strong workforce as well as a very receptive community that welcomed us five years ago.”

To separate oxygen and nitrogen from air, the Beloit plant first conditions the air to remove any moisture and carbon dioxide, Blaylock said. The conditioned air is compressed, causing it to warm. The compressed air is cooled and then allowed to expand rapidly, causing the air to become so cold that some of it condenses into liquid. By compressing and expanding the air repeatedly, most of it can be liquefied. The individual gases are then separated from the liquid by distillation, according to wikipedia.org.

The local plant ships its products to hospitals around the Midwest, along with soda companies and frozen food plants.

Linde's products are used in a variety of industries, from oil and gas to metals, food and beverages, plastics, clean energy and health care, Ficon said. The company supplies enough oxygen annually to the steel industry to produce 15 million tons of steel and 1.5 million cars.

In the health care industry, Linde facilities supply enough oxygen to hospitals and clinics to sustain life for more than 1 million patients annually, as well as enough helium to the medical imaging industry to operate 3,400 MRI machines.

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