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What is a Gas Cylinder?

By B. Turner
Updated May 17, 2024
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A gas cylinder is a metal tank used to store gaseous materials under high levels of pressure. These gas cylinders are generally tall and narrow, and are designed to hold materials such as oxygen, helium, propane, nitrogen. They also can hold compressed air and many other types of gases. They are used in a wide variety of facilities, including laboratories, manufacturing and industrial applications, medical buildings, and the construction industry.

Many countries have strict requirements for the use, storage, transportation, and testing of gas cylinders. These gas cylinder regulations are necessary because of the high risk associated with gases under pressure, as well as the chemical and fire risks of the gases themselves. In most areas, gas cylinder manufacturers must perform a series of tests related to burst pressure, impact resistance and resistance to rust, and corrosion. Often the cylinders must be re-tested at specific intervals if they are re-used or re-purposed.

The average gas cylinder features a series of exterior markings that are used to identify the contents within. Depending on the region, the outside of the cylinder may also be marked with the name of the manufacturer, the amount of pressure within the cylinder and the date the cylinder was produced or filled. Other areas may require a series of warnings on the cylinder stating how it should be handled, stored and transported. Some areas even use a system of color coding so that different types of gas cylinders can be readily identified.

Most cylinders feature a valve at the top that is used for dispensing gas. The valve may also include a gauge that informs users how much material is left in the container. The valve may operate at a single flow rate, or may be adjustable so that different amounts of gas can be released depending on the application.

As part of a safe gas cylinder storage program, most companies and government regulators require the valve to be removed when the cylinder is not in use. Instead, it is replaced by a cap which seals the gas within the cylinder and helps prevent leaks. Most manufacturers also ship the cylinders with this cap so they can be transported more safely.

While gas cylinder storage and handling requirements may vary, there are some general recommendations that can help minimize the risk of accidents. These cylinders should always be kept away from heat, and should be stored in well-ventilated areas. They must be protected from impact, and should be stored separately from hazardous or flammable materials. Finally, users should take care when moving the cylinder to avoid bumping or damaging the container.

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