It really surprised me when a welder I was talking to recently said he used propane “because it’s a safer welding gas for cutting and welding than oxy-acetylene”. As I drove home I thought why does this myth continue? I realised it must date back to the cautious safety procedures issued by the UK Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) in 2003. It inspired me to write my first blog on why acetylene should once again be the first choice for welders.
Acetylene Vs propane
We can thank the German Federal Institute for Materials (BAM) for shattering the myth that oxy-acetylene causes more disruption if involved in a fire than oxy-propane. In reality it’s the same as using any other fuel gas in this situation and in many scenarios acetylene is actually the safer choice. Its extensive research between 2008 and 2009, funded by the British Compressed Gases Association (BCGA) and other agencies, proved acetylene is safe to use when handled, stored and transported correctly.
The research led to the FRS changing its operational procedures in November 2012. Since then, it has allowed one-hour cooling of acetylene cylinders involved in a fire incident, followed by a further hour of monitoring to be on the safe side.
So welders who have been opting for ‘safer’ but less effective alternatives to acetylene, such as oxy-propane and electrical heat induction guns, can now return to acetylene as their welding & heating gas of choice.
Here’s 5 reasons why acetylene is so perfect for heating, cutting and welding:
- It’s officially a safe fuel gas
We now know cylinders of oxy-acetylene are no more disruptive than any other gas cylinders when involved in a fire. Acetylene is also lighter than air, so it doesn’t accumulate at low levels, making it safe to use underground. The BCGA (British Compressed Gas Association) provide a great resource on how to handle acetylene cylinders and provide downloadable risk assessment forms.
- Acetylene users can get insurance
Your insurance company should be aware that the 2012 procedure is now in place, but if they refuse insurance, refer them to our informative guide.
- Nothing beats oxy-acetylene for welding quality
Acetylene is the hottest and most efficient of all fuel gases for all types of welding. Its highest heat transfer rate is 3,160oC versus propane’s 2,828oC. The propane flame is too oxidising to produce high quality welds in carbon steel… but you can with acetylene.
- Using oxy-acetylene could save you time and money
Oxy-acetylene is unbeatable for its flexibility and is cost-effective in multiple fabrication applications. Watch our video to see how acetylene and propane perform in a cutting time test.
- It’s easy to source acetylene
The difficulties users once faced in sourcing acetylene have been alleviated since BOC opened a new £30m state-of-the-art dissolved acetylene plant in Immingham at the end of 2015 which is capable of producing 300kg of acetylene per hour.
Acetylene: welders’ no.1 choice
If you’re looking for quality, safety, efficiency, cost effectiveness, and ease of supply then it’s good to know acetylene can once again be the welder’s fuel gas of choice
You can now buy acetylene at the BOConline Shop.
By Phil Moreton, BOC Product Manager, Acetylene