30-Apr-2021 (Fri) Wherein we've got gas.

We had to replace our big CO2 tank. It had a slow leak, which was costing us money, and so we had been using smaller rental tanks instead of the big one for quite a while, which was also costing us more money. And Airgas had been pretty unreliable about those deliveries; it seems that the schedule that they are comfortable with is, "we'll probably fill up the big tank from the street on our own schedule sometime within a six week window". Anything other than that, and they could hardly be bothered. We often had to drive down there and pick up tanks ourselves at the last minute. Like animals.

The leak was somewhere in that maze of pipes and valves bolted onto the top of the tank, rather than the tank itself, so you'd think that they could just un-bolt that octopus and bolt on a new one. But apparently their policy is, "Fuck that, buy a whole new tank." I'm like 90% sure we're being ripped off, but on the other hand, they probably have more experience with tanks full of 500 pounds of liquid CO2 exploding, so what are you gonna do.

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6 Responses:

  1. o.o says:

    They probably could have done it that way, but Airgas is the 800 lb. gorilla of gas suppliers; even their pricing for small welding gas cylinders is insane. "We don't care, we don't have to, we're Airgas."

    • K J says:

      And this is why I was so happy when we got two other welding gas supply places in town. Nothing like walking in to a place that's open on a Saturday and also happy to take your retail business, even if it's a sideline to their M-F business.

      • jwz says:

        I am a little surprised that so many commenters here have opinions on bulk gas suppliers!

  2. Ben says:

    I ran a rocket company in the bay area, Airgas there is absolutely terrible. Air Products was generally better.

  3. Amy says:

    To be as charitable as I can towards Airgas, CO2 leaks can kill people. They can even be dangerous to first responders who aren't aware of the hazards they face. The company wouldn't want to take any chances with human lives (and potential lawsuits) at stake.

  4. Jacob says:

    One of my job responsibilities is purchasing and compliance for a bunch of research and teaching labs.
    Those guys use a lot of liquid nitrogen and carbon dioxide in those big tanks.
    I order my tanks from a local welding supply company, because Airgas can’t be bothered to give me a quote for our silly little order of 160 liters of liquid nitrogen every two weeks.

    Also, any leaks in those valve assemblies means that the tanks have to be pressure tested after repairs, so “buy a new one” is almost always more economical for the end user. Those tanks can be seriously dangerous, I’ve seen the hole one knocked in a cinder block wall after someone knocked it over and broke the valve assembly off. This was long before Mythbusters did it on TV.
    I’ve also had an idiot student tech hook up a transfer line to the high pressure gas port on a liquid nitrogen tank, rather than the low pressure liquid port. He’s lucky he still has all his limbs, because the braided steel hose flailed like a bullwhip until the pressure ran out.

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