The modern food packaging industry has been using industrial gases—including nitrogen, carbon-dioxide, oxygen and their various combination mixes—for many years as an integral part of the so-called MAP (modified-atmosphere packaging) process.
Used primarily to extend the products’ shelf-life, the MAP process can also be highly beneficial in terms of suppressing and inhibiting bacteria growth inside the packages, while also assist in maintaining attractive product appearance for various packaged meat products.
A large-capacity model N-750 gas generator from On-Site Gas Systems at a Lassonde beverage plant in Toronto can produce up to 200 cubic meters of MAP nitrogen per hour.
Historically, most packagers who wanted to incorporate MAP into their packaging process had to rely on large industrial gas companies to supply the required gases in one of three basic formats: high-pressure gas cylinders, small liquid dewars, or bulk liquid gas.
But that was then.
“There is now a reliable product available that can supply nitrogen or oxygen for MAP applications on true ‘as needed’ demand basis, and at a much lower cost than with the conventional forms of gas supply.
“That product is an on-site gas generating system,” states John Nikiforuk, president of Advanced Gas Technologies Inc., Markham, Ont.-based supplier of industrial gas generating and compressor systems.
“Although this technology has been around for over 30 years, it is only now beginning to gain widespread acceptance as a practical alternative means of MAP gas supply.”
According to Nikiforuk, on-site gas generating technology is well-suited to MAP applications because the gas purity requirements are typically not excessively high, and also because MAP packaging is a relatively continuous process.
Naturally, those costs will vary depending on the geographic location and the associated electricity costs.
According to Nikiforuk, the typical operating costs—covering energy and maintenance expenses—for generating 99.5-precent pure MAP nitrogen to produce a cubic meter can range between $0.025 in Quebec to $0.045 in Ontario, while producing a cubic meter of 95-percent pure MAP oxygen will run from $0.06 in Quebec to $0.10 in Ontario.