Cryogenic technology a breath of fresh air
This week, the 36th Mission Support Group highlights the 36th Logistics Readiness Squadron’s (LRS) fuels management cryogenics production element.
Unique to a few locations in the Air Force, the team utilizes cryogenic technology to provide pure, clean breathing oxygen and clean, dry nitrogen in support of a multitude of units’ aviation, medical and maintenance needs.
“Since Andersen (Air Force Base) is geographically separated from other reliable sources, it is necessary and more cost-effective to be able to produce liquid oxygen and nitrogen on site,” said Staff Sgt. John Loker, 36th LRS fuels management cryogenics production supervisor. “This ability, coupled with facilities to service high-pressure cylinders, allow us to be completely self-sufficient and able to support everything from the fire department’s nitrogen-charged suppression system to the medical group’s liquid nitrogen needs to providing pilots with breathable oxygen.”
Cryogenics production is the process of super cooling normal, outside air and causing the two main elements, oxygen and nitrogen, to liquefy. Each element liquefies at a different temperature;thus, depending on the desired product, incoming air cooled to a certain temperature will cause only one of the two elements to liquefy and be extracted.
The product then goes through separate purification processes until the required purity of 99.5 percent or greater is reached. From there the oxygen or nitrogen is stored in tanks in a liquid state until needed by supported units.
Cryogenics as a whole is a vital element, especially in supporting aircraft units.
“Oxygen is necessary for high-altitude flight,” Loker said. “With liquid being 4,000 times more condensed than gas, a few gallons can support breathing for a significant amount of time. Nitrogen is a non-reactive, temperature stable gas making it useful for maintenance requiring thermal shrinking of parts. In gaseous form, it is also ideal for filling aircraft struts and tires.”
In continuing efforts to improve the efficiency of operation, while also solving maintenance issues, the cryogenics production element is currently making preparations for the addition of the incoming cryogenic plant, previously installed at Lajes Field, Azores.
“This plant, a much needed replacement, is currently back at Integrated Nitrogen Systems in California completing an overhaul with state-of-the-art upgrades,” Loker said. “When installed, the addition will make our operation more efficient and provide an even safer work environment.”
With multiple units relying on the cryogenics production element to provide liquid nitrogen and oxygen in order to accomplish missions, the team continues to improve and expand, keeping Andersen well provided with these elements and proving to be an asset within the Asia-Pacific region.