For years, the metal cutting gas industry has been looking for an alternative to oxyacetylene and other gases for metal cutting. And now there is one. Available since November 2014, MagneGas2 fuel is an alternative choice that is less expensive, cuts faster and cleaner, is safer to use and is made from a renewable resource.
One company that chose this alternative gas is S&R Enterprises LLC. Construction company S&R Enterprises is a lead subcontractor on the two-year $100 million NASA Kennedy Space Center Project to modify the vehicle assembly building for the space launch system. The company is working on the extensible platforms for the vehicle assembly building. The platforms are 100 percent steel and weigh approximately 300,000 lbs. each. The company is using MagneGas2 almost exclusively for the metal cutting portion of the project.
S&R Enterprises was first introduced to MagneGas2 during an onsite demonstration arranged by MagneGas Corp.’s partner, Suwannee Ironworks and Fence. Suwannee is MagneGas’s partner in ESSI of North Florida, a MagneGas subsidiary. ESSI supplies industrial gases and safety products.
“We did multiple cuts at their facility and they saw higher productivity versus cutting with acetylene,” says Spyro Vassiliou, vice president of sales for MagneGas Corp. “In general, there is 1 to 2 seconds of preheat on a cold piece of steel with MagneGas2 while the acetylene can be anywhere from 4 to 8 seconds of preheat or more. And, the MagneGas2 cutting speed is 30 to 40 percent faster than acetylene.”
Immediately after the demonstration, S&R Enterprises chose to switch to MagneGas2.
“The demonstration clearly showed us that MagneGas2 should be our fuel of choice on the space center project,” says Josh Collins, senior project manager at S&R Enterprises. “Our field supervisors were impressed by the speed, quality of cut and ease of use. The gas costs less, cuts faster and leaves a higher quality finish on the cut material than acetylene so that less time is required to cut, clean and grind cut areas.”
S&R Enterprises is also using MagneGas2 for its entire field cutting needs, Collins notes. This includes field-cutting of steel plate for the creation of erection and fit-up aids as well as modifications to fabricated pieces as directed. The company has a variety of thicknesses and sizes of material on site ranging from 3-in.-thick plate material to gauge-thickness shim material.
What is its makeup?
MagneGas2 is made with a process that converts various liquids and liquid wastes, such as soybean oil into hydrogen-based fuels.
“It’s 50 percent hydrogen and the other 50 percent is various gases, such as methane and ethylene,” Vassiliou says. “But the difference with our gas is we don’t blend it like some companies. Blending is costly for industrial gas producers. Our advantage is that MagneGas2 is produced naturally as part of our gasification process.”
It is the only fuel on the market made from a renewable resource, according to Vassiliou. “We recycle that liquid waste, and the gas is the byproduct.”
As mentioned, MagneGas2 is a replacement to acetylene. Acetylene is commonly used because it is the hottest gas available. Other gases used in metal cutting, such as propane, do not come close to the 5,700° acetylene burns with oxygen. But MagneGas2 burns at a certified 10,500°.
“With MagneGas2, you have a direct targeted flame so wherever you are putting that tip, that is where it’s cutting,” Vassiliou says. “You don’t get the heat dispersion like with the other gases. This allows for a smaller heat-affected zone, which is an added safety benefit, and because you are concentrating all that energy in one small spot, you’re able to get a faster preheat and a faster cut.”
Concentrating the heat at the precise point of the cut creates a higher quality cut, as well. The cut is cleaner with little to no slag.
“With the high heat, you’re able to get a direct cut, straight up and down instead of those little curves in there,” Vassiliou says. “And there is virtually no cleanup afterwards, which is a big cost savings because you are cutting back on your labor time and you have a dramatically cleaner work environment.”
Another benefit of MagneGas2 is that it is safer than acetylene. Acetylene is made from mixing water with calcium carbide and that mixture is extremely flammable and inherently unstable. As a result, special precautions are required during its production and handling.
“Acetylene, which S&R Enterprises has traditionally used, has some very specific safety controls such as allowable regulator pressures,” Collins says. “Exceeding 15 psi leads to explosion hazards. And tank orientation requirements must be observed while using the acetylene. The tank must be used and stored in a vertical position.”
MagneGas2 does not have these requirements. There is no pressure restriction for usage because there is no liquid inside the cylinders. It is 100 percent gas. Also, the gas itself is lighter than air, so even if there is a leak, it dissipates up into the atmosphere and does not pool. In actuality, the post-combustion flame emits approximately 12 ½ percent oxygen, leaving the post-combustion environment in better condition. This results in an overall safer environment while reducing the oxygen consumption from the cylinder.
Also, MagneGas2 uses less oxygen than acetylene. This makes it cost competitive and saves users money.
Another reason MagneGas2 is cost effective is it costs less than acetylene, in most cases. According to Vassiliou, manufacturing acetylene requires calcium carbide, which is a raw material that is mined. It is a commodity so it fluctuates with demand and sources. There are a few sources in the United States, but about 96 percent of it is imported from China.
This is not an issue with MagneGas2, which is made 100 percent in the United States.
As for equipment and training, the learning curve is virtually nonexistent. The only change required is a regulator from MagneGas.
“You treat MagneGas2 as you would any other gas,” Vassiliou says. “You can use the same equipment, including tips and torches, you use with acetylene and propane.”
According to Vassiliou, MagneGas2 is significantly different from the original MagneGas. Not only is it easy to use, but users also consume less of it.
“We eliminated the learning curve by allowing users to use the same equipment,” Vassiliou says. “Another difference is the flow rates. With MagneGas, you would consume a bottle about three times as fast as you would with MagneGas2.”
In addition to its metal cutting fuel, S&R Enterprises also chose to purchase its other welding supplies from MagneGas.
“S&R Enterprises has found MagneGas to be a reliable vendor that provides extremely competitive pricing for all of our welding and cutting gas, welding consumables and storage needs,” Collins says. “Additionally, they have been a frequent visitor to the site and stay in contact to ensure that they can meet the needs we know we have as well as the unanticipated needs that can arise during projects of this magnitude.”