View Full Version : Cryogenic gears up on supplies

10-14-04, 08:23 AM
Cryogenic gears up on supplies
Submitted by: MCAS Iwakuni
Story Identification #: 20041013213125
Story by Cpl. Dave Boni

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan (Oct. 12, 2004) -- Nitrogen and oxygen in both liquid and gas forms play vital roles in the mission of the Station. Without it, aircraft would not be able to take off or land and pilots would not have air to breathe.

So when technicians at the Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron Logistics Department Cryogenic Division realize they are running low, they know it’s time to make more.

Operating two mobile generating plants that create temperatures far below 150 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, these Sailors store up to 2,000 gallons of liquid nitrogen and 3,000 gallons of liquid oxygen.

“We’re in production usually twice each quarter, but we’re also equipped to receive both cryogenic liquids from off-base facilities for storage and redistribution,” said Petty officer 1st Class Csaba Hutoczki, Cryogenic technician. “We liquefy the elements in order to store them. In liquid form, they’re hundreds of times more dense than in gaseous form. If we vaporized one gallon of liquid nitrogen, it would fill up a whole room and you wouldn’t be able to breath.”

Hutoczki said the process is broken down in three phases: purification, refrigeration and separation. During the purification stage any impurities are removed from the processed air by three main filters. The next step is the refrigeration process where the air is cooled as it passes through heat exchangers and expansion valves, creating sudden pressure drops and partially liquefying the gas.

“After the gas is partially liquefied, we are able to separate the two components, oxygen and nitrogen through a process called fractional distillation. The end result is a 99.5 percent purity rating,” said Hutoczki, a native of Hungary.

Once the separation is complete, the technicians store the individual components in both liquid and gas forms, which are ready for the various units to pick up for their own supply.

“People may not know this, but the air in the tires on the planes is gaseous nitrogen, a very dry gas,” said Hutoczki. “If you were to use regular air, the tires would crack or explode when the outside temperatures got to cold due to the freezing of the moisture in the air. Without liquid nitrogen and liquid oxygen, the Station would not be able meet their mission.”

In order to maintain the utmost standards for the Cryogenic Division, Hutoczki and his fellow technicians take samples from the tanks to ensure they are safe and functioning properly.

“We take the samples every 45 days and we are extremely careful with what we do,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Russell Jacob, Cryogenic technician. “One spark near a tank of liquid oxygen is enough to cause an explosion, and one coin exposed to liquid nitrogen will shatter like glass if dropped.”

For Hutoczki, the dangers are real, but he said if you follow procedures precisely you shouldn’t have any problems.

“It goes with the responsibility of having a crucial job,” he said. “But everyone here works hard and maintains the equipment to the best of their ability.”


Cryogenic technician’s Petty Officer 1st Class Csaba Hutoczki (on right) and Petty Officer 2nd Class Jimmy Machell oversee a liquid nitrogen transfer. Photo by: Cpl. Dave Boni