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Thread: O2 Regulator

  1. #1
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    O2 Regulator

    Pretty straight forward question - is a standard medical O2 tank regulator sufficient for oxygenating wort in a small (3 bbl) nanobrewery? I've already built an oxygenation assembly (sight glass, CO2 stone, TC fittings, etc.) and I actually have a little 5# medical O2 tank (previous owners left it behind when we bought our house!) but no regulator. I'm hoping I can get the local fire dept. to fill the tank for me but am wondering what I should look for as far as regulators go.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by somenerve View Post
    Pretty straight forward question - is a standard medical O2 tank regulator sufficient for oxygenating wort in a small (3 bbl) nanobrewery? I've already built an oxygenation assembly (sight glass, CO2 stone, TC fittings, etc.) and I actually have a little 5# medical O2 tank (previous owners left it behind when we bought our house!) but no regulator. I'm hoping I can get the local fire dept. to fill the tank for me but am wondering what I should look for as far as regulators go.
    Yes a standard medical regulator is sufficient for your purposes. You will want one with the lowest possible measurements you can find, and possibly even a secondary rotameter to dial it back to your desired flow rates. Most likely below 0.5 liters per minute. There are two main types of valves on O2 cylinders, one medical (square, no threads) and one industrial (threads).

    The fire department will likely not be able to refill your oxygen cylinder as they use compressed breathing air, not oxygen. I know because I used to fill cylinders at a fire department. Most contract out their bottle filling unless they are fairly large. The compressors take breathing air and compress it, where oxygen would be typically filled from a LOX tank (liquid) produced by someone else. Fire departments may have confined space "re-breathers" that use small (5# or less) cylinders of pure oxygen, but these are a threaded fitting, not the medical style. The department will likely be able to point you to a company that can fill (and test) the cylinder though. If it is a big department, then it could be combined with the emergency medical services and may be able to fill or swap your cylinder.

    Last point, you really don't need oxygen unless brewing high gravity (above about 16*P). Regular air will work fine and reduces the chance of over-oxygenating. Oxygen is toxic to yeast at high levels. You can use a diaphragm aquarium or horticulture pump and a sanitary filter disc to aerate easily and cheaply. All that said, I use O2 and just measure it appropriately.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the response. I actually used to be an EMT and we had a set of large tanks that we filled our little portables from. I believe it was called a “cascading system”? I’m in a rural area now and assumed that the local FD also has a first responder unit which may have O2 tanks but I don’t know this for a fact. Fortunately, my electrician is on the local fire department and he should be coming in today to install my control panel so I can ask him :-).

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by somenerve View Post
    Thanks for the response. I actually used to be an EMT and we had a set of large tanks that we filled our little portables from. I believe it was called a “cascading system”? I’m in a rural area now and assumed that the local FD also has a first responder unit which may have O2 tanks but I don’t know this for a fact. Fortunately, my electrician is on the local fire department and he should be coming in today to install my control panel so I can ask him :-).
    Don't you have a welding supply around?

  5. #5
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    Closest one is about an hour away. Inconvenient but not out of the question.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by somenerve View Post
    Closest one is about an hour away. Inconvenient but not out of the question.
    I was thinking it would be pretty cheap to change the regulator connection out to work on a standard O2 tank, and then you could just swap out tanks like everyone else does. Those companies often have trucks that make the rounds, and I've had them fix/modify valves before. I had a CO2 tank that I wanted to convert to nitrogen (for charging an accumulator), and having them change the valve and hydro/certify the tank was way cheaper than buying a new tank.

    You can also get small O2 tanks (empty, of course) from Harbor Freight pretty cheaply. Then you swap it out with a full one from the welding supply truck when they arrive at your door.

    Regards,
    Mike Sharp

  7. #7
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    Regardless how small/rural you are, there is a service that fills/swaps out medical O2 tanks. Think of the folks walking around with O2 tanks for medical purposes. They get those filled/swapped at their home.
    Timm Turrentine

    Brewerywright,
    Terminal Gravity Brewing,
    Enterprise. Oregon.

  8. #8
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    I understood that people supplying medical grade oxygen didn't like supplying food producers because of the infection risk. Perhaps if refilling on site, they are happy??

    Food grade oxygen is fine. Not sure about non food grade as possibly it contains undesirable contaminants, which don't matter if you are using for say oxy-acetylene welding, but would matter for food.
    dick

  9. #9
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    It looks like pretty much all O2 sold in the US is USP medical grade, with various degrees of post-treatment: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~lpt/oxlabel.htm If you can sort through all that.
    Timm Turrentine

    Brewerywright,
    Terminal Gravity Brewing,
    Enterprise. Oregon.

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