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Acetylene and Oxyfuel Welding: Past and Present

Gases / Products / Welding

What do lighthouses, generators and welding all have in common? Well, they all have a history of using a common gas: Acetylene (C2H2).

Before there was electricity, there were Acetylene fueled lamps and generators. Mines, railways and lighthouses could use the generators remotely for lighting. The flame produced was much brighter than that of coal gas, which was ideal for each of these applications. Soon after, Acetylene was implemented in automobile headlights, bicycles and marine buoys.

However, Oxy-Acetylene welding is perhaps the most famous use for this intense gas and is still used today. In fact, this welding method contributed to much of the United States’ architectural development in the early 1900s. Since the gas can produce a flame up to 5,432 degrees Fahrenheit, its immense strength welded steel and iron alloys for building and bridge construction and cut plating for Navy ships. Oxy-Acetylene torches were even used to cut portholes out of metal plates on ships in under 30 minutes.

The Benefits of Acetylene

Acetylene has a low moisture content, making it ideal for various welding and heating applications, such as gouging, hardening, bending, straightening, brazing, cutting, cleaning and more. Acetylene and Oxygen combined create a neutral flame for welding that neither oxidizes or carburizes.

As the hottest burning flame in Oxyfuel welding, Acetylene is one of the most efficient gases to use. It improves cut quality, increases cutting speed and reduces Oxygen thus preventing metals from rusting. The automotive and construction industries remain a few of the top industries that still use Acetylene today.

acetylene distributor

The Hazards of Acetylene

Acetylene is dissolved in acetone to prevent decomposition, but if improperly stored it is a very unstable gas. A cylinder or tank should always be upright to ensure that the gas is properly dissolved and settled in the acetone. Never, in any case, should it be used sitting on its side or hanging upside down, thus it must be chained to a wall to remain standing. If the tank either gets knocked over or if the pressure exceeds more than 15 psi, it is highly volatile.

The purity of Acetylene is highly important during the production process. If the gas reacts with certain levels of Oxygen or other impurities, catastrophic explosions can occur, which is a significant reason why there are not many Acetylene manufacturing plants remaining in the United States.

Acetylene in the Rocky Mountain Region

If you are a consumer of Acetylene anywhere in the Rocky Mountain region, your supply most likely comes from RMA. We are one of the few gas suppliers in the United States that still manufactures and distributes Acetylene, which means that we supply it not only to our customers, but to competing gas companies as well.

Although there are many different ways to weld using various gases, Acetylene is still widely used today. The equipment we work with was installed in the 1920s and is still operating at our Salt Lake City plant. Since the distribution and filling process is time intensive and Acetylene is an extremely volatile gas, a lot of time and effort goes into ensuring that everything and everyone is safe. Because of this, we have ensured that the refining process is in the hands of experts who really know what they are doing and perform their work with the highest care for the sake of their own safety and the safety of others. RMA has the ability to supply your high purity industrial grade Acetylene and atomic absorption grade Acetylene, available in multiple cylinder sizes to be purchased individually or in clusters.

If your business is interested in purchasing Acetylene, or for questions about cylinder sizes and delivery options, contact your local RMA branch today in any one of our five or surrounding states (Colorado, Utah, Nebraska, Idaho, Wyoming) today. We look forward to serving you.

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