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Nitrogen Inflation: Benefits for Fleets and Heavy Equipment

Using nitrogen inflation to boost profits and create a safer work environment.
By Chris Lein, Marketing Manager, Branick Industries

Nitrogen provides many benefits over traditional inflation mediums, especially in extreme environments that create excessive heat and large stresses on the tire. Nitrogen inflation can help to mitigate these factors to extend tire life, limit downtime and provide a safer work environment.

Nitrogen was first promoted for tyre inflation in 1967. The only option at that time was to use bottled nitrogen which was both costly and often unavailable. Although the promoters believed in the benefits of nitrogen, the test was stopped because of the difficulties with supply.

For many years nitrogen inflation remained merely an idea until the advent of modern membrane systems negated the supply issue.

In 2003, Branick Industries (www.branick.com) introduced the first modern nitrogen inflation equipment for the automotive market. Branick is still the largest manufacturer of nitrogen generators, having both mobile and stationary models, with a range of nitrogen outputs to meet specific needs.

Nitrogen can now be produced on demand at a relatively low cost and many nitrogen systems include auto-inflators that can perform the service on multiple tires simultaneously.

Some of the earliest adopters of nitrogen inflation were operators of OTR, agricultural and heavy equipment fleets. Many of these industries transitioned to nitrogen inflation to improve tyre life and reduce fuel costs, both of which are benefits of nitrogen’s ability to retain correct pressure better than compressed air.

Pete Larsen, president of Larsen Trucking, purchased Branick nitrogen generators to convert his fleet to nitrogen. He stated that “In the first four months of 2006, our on-road tyre repair expenses calculated by tyre failure were $5,126.72 per month. In the same period for the first 6 months of 2007 [using nitrogen], the on-road tyre repair expenses were $929.95 per month, an 82% reduction.”1

Mr. Larsen also stated that fuel economy increased from 5.57 mpg to 7.05 mpg, a 26.6% improvement.

Along the way, many discovered that the retreadability of nitrogen inflated tyres improved due to decreased oxygen and water vapor in the tire. Oxygen and water degrade the inner liner and casing as they permeate through the tire.

After Aberdare Cables in South Africa began using nitrogen for their fleet, Mark Wybrow, Group Transport Manager, noted that “…the tyre casing(s) had been recapped 5 to 6 times. We find this fact almost unbelievable as our very best before nitrogen was 3 recaps per casing.” More recaps translate to large reductions in tyre costs and Mr. Wybrow said that “…tyre cost has dropped by approx. 40%” due to nitrogen.”

Nitrogen is also an inert gas, meaning it is not reactive and does not support combustion. While tyre explosions may not be common, they do occur, often resulting in injury to personnel, costly repairs and expensive downtime.

Mining Safety.co.za says in “Maintenance Guide for Earthmover Tyres: Tyre Inflation” that “The inflation of a tyre with nitrogen averts the risk of explosion by eliminating the oxygen or reducing the proportion of oxygen inside the tyre.”

In addition, in its guide booklet “Tyre Safety for Earth-Moving Machinery on Western Australian Mining Operations”, the Mining Industry Advisory Committee of Australia states “The correct use of nitrogen prevents pyrolysis. Inflating tyres with nitrogen reduces the potential for auto-ignition.”

There are obvious benefits to nitrogen inflation and most companies find the ROI of the equipment to be very favorable. Recouping the cost in less than a year is quite common.

Those costs will vary depending on the size of tires being converted, number of tires per day that are serviced, speed at which the service can be completed, compressor output, and nitrogen storage capacity among other things. When purchasing a nitrogen generator, it is important to be clear regarding the performance expectations. This ensures the nitrogen system will meet the needs both now and in the future.

Chris Lein is the Marketing Manager for Branick Industries (www.branick.com). Since 1917 Branick has been a leader in automotive and tire service equipment.

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