Whether you use a CO2 cylinder or a bulk CO2 tank system, you should be aware of CO2 tank safety. Thousands of liquid carbon dioxide cylinders and tanks are used across the country for soda or beer carbonation, for refrigeration, industrial purposes, medical and scientific facilities, and even indoor agriculture. All of these vessels are a potential safety hazard if not installed and used properly.
CO2 cylinder and tank safety is important. An accident can quickly hurt or even kill staff or customers.
CO2 tank safety concerns
The primary safety concern is cylinder or tank leakage. While the cylinders or tanks are designed to withstand punctures, the pipes and fittings used to distribute the gas are not.
CO2 cylinder pressure is about 860 psi at normal room temperature. Typical CO2 cylinders store about 100 lbs. of liquid CO2. Two pounds of liquid CO2 expands to about 20 cubic feet of pure CO2 at atmospheric pressure, or expands at a rate of 535:1. This means that in an enclosed room the CO2 gas can quickly displace all the oxygen available for breathing. Because CO2 is heavier than air it will also fill any low areas like basements or under floor service areas. If there is little air movement, pools of CO2 can exist for many hours.
Liquid CO2 temperature is also important. If the gas escapes quickly (like a fire extinguisher) it is quickly cooled and produces a mixture of CO2 gas and snow. This “CO2 snow” is momentarily the same temperature as dry ice (about -110F or -79C) and can quickly result in frostbite or frozen skin.
Bulk CO2 tanks and cylinders along with their delivery systems should be installed by a professional. In most cases the person to ask about professional installation is your bulk CO2 suppleir. Either they can install the tanks or direct you to someone they recommend. If your facility offers soda fountain drinks or draft beer, ask these suppliers too. It never hurts to have more than one quote.
CO2 cylinders stored indoors should be stood upright against a wall and secured with a chain to insure they cannot fall over and potentially damage or rupture the valve. Bulk CO2 tanks should be bolted to the floor to insure they do not tip over as well. The area around the tank and cylinders should be well-ventilated if possible and should be monitored by a CO2 safety alarm.
CO2 tanks and cylinders should be stored in areas with a temperature less than 125F (51.7C).
CO2 tanks and cylinders should always be connected to a reducing valve or regulator with a pressure safety valve.
Repairs to CO2 delivery systems should only be done by trained personnel. Even the smallest leak in a hose or fitting can have potentially dangerous results. While it may be tempting to wrap a leaking hose with tape as a temporary fix, it may not only be unwise, but could leave management open to a lawsuit or denial of insurance coverage in the case of an accident.
Fortunately, most CO2 delivery services include CO2 system installation, maintenance and 24/7 repair as part of their service package.
Accidental damage to CO2 delivery systems can and do happen. For example, a worker opening boxes with a utility blade might inadvertently slip and puncture a CO2 line. A cylinder tank cart might fall over while being moved over an uneven floor. It is important that employees who work with or around bulk CO2 tanks are trained to understand the dangers of leaking tanks and understand what to do when a leak happens. Proper training and signage are critical for protecting employees and customers around stored CO2.